Donor and Transplant Assistance

I would like to take a second to say something about organ donors. Several years ago, my stepsister, 21 years old, was killed in a car wreck. The only thing that made it easier for us to bear was knowing that her healthy organs went out to people all over the country, saving their lives or adding a quality they would not have otherwise had, and that a small part of her is still alive in many places. I would encourage each and every one of you to become organ donors. It is as simple as putting it on your driver's license or carrying a card.




My brother, who served in Vietnam and was wounded, has just suffered from a stroke at the age of 56. The doctors have been unable to identify the cause of the stroke; he was in otherwise perfect health. He still has shrapnel in his body from the wound in Vietnam which was near fatal. I would like to know if there has been any research on wounded vets and/or others who have suffered traumatic accidents and strokes. I don't know where to start. Also, my brother's insurance allows for limited physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Would he be eligible for further rehabilitation though a veteran's group?


You did not mention WHERE your brother's wounds were -- in other words, where the shrapnel was located. This could have a lot of bearing on the cause of the stroke. "Strokes," more properly called "Cerebrovascular accidents," involve loss of blood flow to an area of the brain, killing the involved brain cells. There are generally two major causes of stroke: bleeding or obstruction.

A bleeding stroke is usually caused by a rupture of one of the blood vessels in the head. Since the blood leaks out of the vessel, it never arrives at the spot on the brain it was supposed to nourish; and that part of the brain dies.

An obstructive stroke can be caused by anything that blocks the flow of blood -- a blood clot, a fat or air embolus, a tumor, a foreign particle, etc. Depending on the part of the brain that is "killed off," the resulting disability can range from almost absent to severe.

It will be very important to determine if the wounds your brother suffered had anything to do with his stroke. Unfortunately, it is not that unusual for a man of 56 to suffer a stroke, nowadays. Risk factors that contribute to strokes include hypertension (high blood pressure), elevated cholesterol levels that contribute to occluded blood vessels, blood vessels in the brain that are either weak or malformed (a "birth defect" so to speak), alcohol, and certain medication/drug use. This is just a partial list!

In order for your brother to get benefits from the VA, it must first be established that his stroke was related to his wounds. However, this can take time; and time is what you do not really have! You did not mention the degree of your brother's disability; but studies show that the sooner rehab is started, the higher the percentage of recovery.

My recommendations to you would be to utilize his civilian benefits until it can be determined if he is eligible for vets benefits. It is fairly easy to switch over if that happens -- I have patients frequently who do that.

I hope this helps at least a little bit. Good luck.



Revised 02-04-98 by DGS