One Veteran's Search for Help


Warren and Gina Hardy are American patriots.

Warren came to California from England 12 years ago for a job in Silicon Valley. He fell in love -- with his wife, Gina, and with America. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, both Hardys decided to enlist in the Army. Warren became a U.S. citizen before leaving for Iraq.

A few months into his tour, Warren's armored vehicle rolled over a bomb, whipping him violently around the inside of the car.

"We actually went up in the air about 10 feet," he said.

He sustained injuries to his knees and back, but he also had a traumatic brain injury that wasn't discovered until two years later.

"I fell through a whole bunch of cracks, all the way from the time I hit the combat hospital in Tikrit, all the way until I got into the VA system," he said.

Back home, Warren couldn't concentrate and experienced unprovoked outbursts. His memory was failing, and he was unable to work.

"Every time I was trying to do something complicated, I would just, just nothing ever sunk in," he told ABC's Bob Woodruff. "I used to be a software engineer. I had an incredible memory. And now I am struggling."

Countless Veterans Struggling

In the midst of the scandal surrounding the mismanagement of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and reports of similar situations in regional VA hospitals across the country, countless veterans are also slipping through the cracks with unseen wounds suffered in the Iraq War.

Traumatic brain injuries, sustained after an IED attack, have affected thousands of veterans, and have gone undiagnosed at VA hospitals across the country.

"I sometimes wish that I lost a leg or something, because my whole medical treatment would have been completely different," Warren said. "It's not that they have left you behind, it's that they don't know that they've left you behind."

Only recently, after nearly three years of experience handling injuries sustained from IED attacks, have government doctors begun to understand what happened to Warren and other soldiers who have been exposed to these blasts.

The power of an IED attack is tremendous, hitting soldiers with a blast of air that is moving at more than 1,000 miles per hour.

"[It's] a huge pressure wave, a wall of air that hits you," said Dr. Steven Scott of the VA Medical Center in Tampa, Fla. "That's followed by a huge blast of wind maybe up to a thousand, 2,000 miles an hour."

Even soldiers who are not directly at the blast site can be affected.

"You don't have to be in the Humvee that gets hit by the bomb. You could be in the Humvee behind it and have that blast wave hit you and still suffer from some mild traumatic brain injury," said Paul Sullivan, a veterans advocate.

A Diagnosis and Outpouring of Community Support

Warren's injury went undiagnosed by countless doctors.

"He had so many appointments, and it was just overlooked," Gina said.

Gina was pregnant with triplets and terrified.

"I was scared," she said. "I am like, 'Well what are we going to do? What's he going to do?' We were living off our savings, which was disappearing quickly."

Warren finally had his brain injury diagnosed two years after returning from Iraq, by Dr. Harriet Zeiner at the VA hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.

"It's not like it goes away when the war ends," Zeiner said. "The bottom line is people return to their communities and they carry their head injuries. There are many of them that carry the effects for life."

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