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It reminds me of being in Vietnam.

April 19, 2012
Daddy in 1969.

In addition to misdiagnosing Daddy with depression, the doctor partially attributed his memory loss to posttraumatic stress disorder. Daddy served on the 173rd Airborne Brigade Separate during the Vietnam War and understandably carries psychological scars. For a long time after he and Mother got married, he slept with a gun. Plus, surviving ground combat and jumping out of airplanes influenced Daddy to embrace religion. He promised God that if he made it out alive, he would become a dedicated Christian. As part of that pact, he vowed never to kill another living being again and gave up hunting as well.

After my father’s initial visit with the doctor, my sister Timber remained convinced that Daddy’s symptoms could be attributed to something more serious than depression: symptoms like an inability to distinguish direction, disorientation of time and great anxiety over being separated from my mother. The doctor’s pride superseded the admission of a mistake and delayed proper treatment for months.

As I mentioned in a prior post, Daddy has been selected for a study at Emory that will equip him with memory-building strategies. The first and fifth sessions are supposed to include an MRI without sedation. However, Daddy can’t endure the procedure sans medication.

“It reminds me of being in Vietnam,” he told me.


“I feel like I’m getting mortared.”

Daddy attempted to tolerate the initial MRI but immediately got out of the machine. The MRI portion of the study is helpful but fortunately not required.

In spring 2009 I watched Daddy get inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame. He keeps in touch with many Army buddies as well as contacts made through Camp Frank D. Merrill, the U.S. Mountain Ranger Association and Fort Benning. An immediate unspoken bond connects him to strangers wearing Army Ranger t-shirts or driving with Airborne decals on their vehicles. Once while Daddy trailed behind Mother at craft store Michaels in Kennesaw, he spotted a man with wings on his cap.

“HOOAH!” Daddy hollered, crouching in front of the man near the autumn garlands.

“HOOAH!” he hollered back, jiggling a shelf of orange and yellow leaves.


“Hooah!” they continued as Mother browsed the ceramic turkeys.

During a recent visit home I lay in bed with Daddy and viewed Heartbreak Ridge on the Military Channel. Watching Clint Eastwood kick someone’s ass in prison didn’t seem to conjure memories that would exacerbate PTSD. Reclining under the quilt with Daddy felt like childhood and my old pets and like everything was all right.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Timber permalink
    April 22, 2012 8:15 pm

    I wonder why they won’t allow sedation?!? It seems like they would definitely want the follow-up MRI. Isn’t that the point of the study? I’m glad you included the picture!

  2. April 22, 2012 8:49 pm

    I think they prefer the MRI, but maybe just doing the memory training will improve participants’ self-esteem and confidence. I have no idea, though, why sedation would affect the MRI results if at all.

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