Bare with me as I try to get this information on here without it sounding all jumbled. My memories of the events are still difficult to deal with, and still fuzzy.
My name is SPC Brian Dean and I am a Combat Medic with the CA Army National Guard. In June of 2010, while deployed to the remote area of Musa-Khel in the Khost province of Afghanistan, my platoon came under mortar fire from unknown locations. While at first the incoming didn't seem to be of any threat, I noticed that the incoming sounded like it was getting closer. I notified my chain of command and, as the only medic, I started getting my casualty collection point ready in case of any wounded and then got my gear together and headed for the safety of our vehicles. By that time the incoming was landing just outside the walls of our very small compound (which we shared with the Afghan Police). As I was running to the safety of our vehicles, a mortar round landed just over my right shoulder approximately 10 feet behind me. The force of the blast knocked me over onto my left side where I hit my head and was lying on the ground in an altered state of consciousness. I felt like I was looking through a tunnel with haze all around the outside and everything seemed to move at such a slow speed. I remember telling myself to get up, yelling at myself inside my head to get up, almost forcing myself to get up and not leave my 2 little girls father-less. I still don't know how long I was down for, but it seemed like forever. As I was getting up and trying to get to my vehicle, my head started pounding and I was having difficulty walking, let alone carrying my gear. After a few minutes on my feet, I made it to my vehicle and climbed into the back of it. Moments later the incoming stops, and my medic training took over. Despite the pounding in my own head, I get on the radio to find out if we have any casualties or anyone needing medical attention. We were lucky, no fatalities, or any serious injuries including mine, or so I thought. Later on that day I decided to try to take a nap to get rid of the pounding in my head (instead of using my limited medications/supplies). I woke up screaming from the pain and nightmare I just had of the recent incident. I went to my chain of command to tell them what was going on and was told that unless its serious that it can wait until our rotation out of that area (2 weeks later) and we head back to the main FOB. Needless to say, that time never came. I stayed another 4 months in Afghanistan and was involved in two more attacks of similar nature in which i would again sustain a concussion and altered level of consciousness, and again was given the "Take one for the team" speech. My unit finally realized that I needed help and sent me to Baghram Air Field, where I was to undergo evaluations. In late October the doctors determined that I needed to be medically evacuated for severe PTSD, and possible "compound TBI's". I eventually end up at Ft Lewis, where after an evaluation for TBI, I was determined to have "severe" TBI among other injuries and put in a wheelchair.
My TBI is a "blanket" diagnosis for many things wrong with me including poor balance, difficulty walking, peripheral neuropathy (from my hips down to my feet, and my arms from my elbows to my hands), chronic and acute migraines, and cognitive problems. I worked very hard in physical therapy to get out of a wheelchair and work on getting my balance back. One of the things my physical therapist tried was getting me onto a stationary bicycle to give my legs good range of motion with easily changeable resistance to help get my strength back. While I still have difficulty walking, I have found a new calling on the bicycle. I made a decision to work hard to be able to ride on a bike on the road again, and then with other riders, and in a group. In September of this year I attended a USABA (United States Association of Blind Athletes) paracycling camp at the Colorado Springs Olympic Center to help us focus on training, and racing in the paracycling world. While I was at the camp, I was informed by the coaches and staff that the only consideration the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) gives to paracyclists is in the area of individual Time Trials. This information has now made my dreams of making the US National Paracycling team and the 2016 Paralympic team a much harder goal because I do not have a time trial specific bike like everyone else that is trying to achieve the same goal. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, except I am on a very limited budget and not able to afford even the most moderately priced Time Trial bike. I'm making do right now with my bike to train on, but eventually I'm going to need the proper equipment to train/race on. Unfortunately, because of the injuries I have sustained, I cannot go back to work, but instead spend my days training and pushing to achieve my dream of becoming a paralympian and help others that will come after me get better and achieve whatever goals they may set for themselves.
Thank you Saul for this opportunity to get my story out there and any help I may receive along the way.