The average blast wave travels at 163 mph, faster than the speed of sound and can pierce through your armor, skull, and brain tissue without drawing a drop of blood. Completely invisible damage. Causing further insult to injury, a blast wave can also send a grown man flying through the air, putting them at jeopardy for further head trauma.
As a special forces operator deployed multiple times in Afghanistan, I’ve experienced and survived hundreds of blast waves, and you always hear one before you feel it. The best way I can describe it is what I would imagine being struck by lightning would feel like; by the time you hear the thunderous clap, you feel the slap of over-pressure reverberate throughout your entire body.
I never thought in a million years that surviving these explosions seemingly unscathed would ever impact my life the way it has and strip me of the identity I had up until that point in my life, a Green Beret.
Why I’m Sharing my TBI Story
I’m sharing my story as a commitment to help others suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries heal and return to a state of normalcy, as I have. I serve those suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries by giving them access to education and a scientifically-proven protocol to heal, formulated by Dr. Mark Gordon, the physician that helped me return to my pre-injury status in ninety days.
The “Invisible” Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury
Although I didn’t know it then, I returned home in late 2013 from my last deployment as a special forces operator with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), a type of brain damage sustained by an estimated 2.5 million people annually per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Per research, TBI’s are commonly suffered by Veterans, athletes, former fighters and car accident survivors to name a few.
The Onset of Piling Symptoms
My return home seemed typical for a short while, but the consequences of the damage suffered during my last deployment began to surface six-months in. The first of the series of symptoms was a complete loss of libido, not normal for me as an extremely healthy thirty-two-year-old male standing 6’2” and weighing 225 pounds, who is very attracted to Becky (my wife). At first, I tried not to think much of the irregularity, although admittedly my wife was less than pleased and rather confused.
But as I stated, that was just the first of a series of symptoms additional symptoms that developed over the next four months which included being tormented by chronic fatigue, to the point where some days I didn’t even have the energy to get out of bed even after a long night of sleep. One after the other, symptoms such as recurring migraine headaches, micro-seizures, insomnia, and panic attacks began to take hold. The panic attacks got so bad and humiliating that I would have them in public in the weight room, or at home right in front of my young children.
In a mere handful of months, my wife and children witnessed the epitome of a man dismantle and disrupt, which was very confusing for us all because physically we saw no signs of harm. I looked the same, but I was no longer myself.
The Decision to Ask for Help
By April 2014, I was waking up in such a severe state of depression, that I would compare it to the state of depression that I would imagine would consume me had I woken up to my whole family having been murdered.
Yet, I had it all. I had the career of my dreams as a special forces operator, a beautiful wife, and the family that she and I always wanted.
After months of feeling the burden of advancing symptoms, especially panic attacks, and the calamity of a downward spiral which admittedly had begun to take a disastrous toll on my marriage and family, I came to the very harsh conclusion that I could no longer “ride this out” and that there was something serious transpiring even though we could not see the cause of it with our eyes.
One thing was clear: I had to let my Green Beret brothers know that I had become a liability to them.
TBI Diagnosis and Medication Cocktail
Upon receiving the message, my command was simultaneously very supportive and shocked. Fortunately, because of my career track concerning numerous combat engagements, when I spoke up, people listened. Looking back, my military colleagues listened because they thought:
“If this can happen to Andrew Marr, then it can happen to anyone.”
The custom was to link me with every medical specialist in the power of my command to a) diagnosis the cause of the symptoms and b) create a treatment protocol to help me get better.
Upon visiting several medical specialists, I was informed that I had suffered head trauma which caused a Traumatic Brain Injury due to my job requirements as a Special Forces Green Beret; I could not afford another blow to the head. I was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as a mood disorder with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome and insomnia; and that was only the tip of the iceberg.
Complying to the protocol of these medical specialists landed me with 13 different medications, all of which were dispensed to manage specific symptoms but did not treat any underlying cause of the symptoms; my symptoms only got worse.
Medical Retirement from the U.S. Army
When my command witnessed that I got worse rather than improved, I felt I had become a burden to them. In 1 year I was medically retired, which by Military standards is an incredible fast-track. According to the Veterans Affairs, I was 100% disabled due to 33 separate disabilities.
In what seemed like a blink of an eye I went from cutting edge elite high performer, to out on the street, my identity shattered.
To be given no choice but to withstand these symptoms and to have my identity as a Green Beret ripped from my grip was just too much for me to bear. To cope with the disastrous impact and the disappointing inefficacy of my medical treatment, I turned to whiskey.
The ER Visit That Changed My Life
Fast forward to September 2014, my wife Becky was nine months pregnant with our fifth child, and my excessive drinking had become so common that she had to ask me, “Can you keep your drinking down today so that I don’t have to drive myself to the hospital?”
It wasn’t enough to stop me. My leg had been killing me for three days and I needed to numb the pain.That same day we had to rush my 13-month-old son Jace to the Emergency Room. He suffered from a genetic lymphatic malformation in his neck, which blew up to the size of a softball and caused him to have trouble breathing.
As Jace was rushed into emergency surgery on the fifth floor of the hospital, my wife went into active labor with our youngest on the second floor. The pain in my leg at this point was so severe that I began to drag it as I walked between the second and fifth floor of the hospital. Fortunately, Jace was able to make it to emergency recovery in time for me to make it to the second floor to witness the birth of our youngest son, JoJo.
The physicians who kept eyeing me drag my leg as I walked through the hospital rushed me for images; a blood clot in my leg had broken off into both lungs and I had a bilateral pulmonary embolism. The doctor looked at me and said, “We have a very small window, this is a very high mortality rate.”
Drunk, I began to laugh and told the doctor and his team, “If you think this is going to kill me, get in line.”
The Promise to My Son
At the bedside of my son Jace, looking at him sleep in emergency recovery, I popped my last pain pill and took a swig of my airplane bottle of whiskey (which at that point was how I operated 24/7 to cope).
At his bedside I had an epiphany that changed the course of my life: If I continued on the track I was going, if I continue to wholesale buy everything that the medical system was telling me, it was going to kill me and it was going to ruin everything and everyone that I love.
I had two choices: to stay on the route I was going or decide to act and change what I don’t like about my medical treatment and life. Then, I made three promises to my son, which were as follows:
- I was going to get off all 13 medications and return to the man of my pre-injury status
- I was going to find a way to heal myself
- I was going to turn around and do the same thing for somebody else
And I made one more critical decision, to commit to my new identity and responsibility as a husband and a father. To this day, I have kept all of these promises.
The Proactive Search for Healing
After leaving the hospital, I became proactive in regard to my healing. I began to research alternative therapies to help heal my Traumatic Brain Injury, the majority of which the government was not willing to pay for. I didn’t care and plowed forward. I started to take an objective approach and ask others with TBI what was working for them.
More than anything, I wanted to understand why some things worked for some people with TBI and not at all for others. I did every single alternative treatment modality that you can think of; some of which were beneficial to me and some of which had reverse effects. It was during this time that my brother Adam and I began the Warrior Angels Foundation, founded and run by veterans.
Being Contacted by Dr. Mark Gordon
Not long into my hunt to heal my TBI, we received some press by being featured in a Forbes article, connected to a neurological facility in Texas. Shortly after the article was published, I received an email from Dr. Mark Gordon who had years of experience treating Traumatic Brain Injuries and is recognized as a top leader worldwide in Interventional Endocrinology.
He and one of his patients had also been featured in Joe Rogan podcast. I listened to the podcast and I basically heard his patient Matt tell my story; what I was feeling was not specific to me, this problem was far bigger than me. What most attracted me to Dr. Mark Gordon while listening to the podcast, was that he spoke about the ability to objectively measure treatment results, which was a non-existent element in my medical treatment at the point.
Treatment Protocol with Dr. Mark Gordon
Dr. Mark’s treatment made sense to me and was easy for me to understand; we would test my hormone levels, receive the results and prepare to follow a two-step protocol: Step 1) Mitigate and modulate inflammation (which is a major factor of the several symptoms associated with TBI) and Step 2) Replace the hormones that my body was no longer making.
Before complying to treatment with Dr. Mark Gordon, I sought the council of my military endocrinologist to see if he would test and replace the hormones that I had low levels of; he denied my request for a Hormone Replacement Treatment Program and instead accused me of abusing anabolic steroids because he had never seen hormone levels so low in a patient who was not an abuser. This response made me irate and propelled me to link up with Dr. Mark Gordon in Southern California.
A Glimpse of Hope
During our first meeting, Mark ran the labs which we expected to receive in three weeks. He also decided to give me a provocative testosterone injection to see how I would react. Within a couple of hours, I began to feel different. Usually, bumper to bumper traffic would drive me mad and to have a fit, but I felt a semblance of calm even in traffic.
Then, I called my wife and talked to her for an hour, something I hadn’t been able to do in almost a year.
This was the first time throughout a hellish year, where I had put a gun in my mouth several times and thought about ending my life only to end being a burden on my family, that I experienced a glimpse of hope.
Healing My Traumatic Brain Injury in 90 Days Via the Gordon-Protocol
I began treatment for my Traumatic Brain Injury with Dr. Mark Gordon in February 2015, and I was completely symptom-free within 90 days. I could make clear decisions, I felt like I was back on my feet, and I had the energy and clarity to work hard to repair damaged relationships with my family. Upon my recovery, it was time to commit myself to the third part of the promise I made to my son, helping others heal.
We have replicated my treatment results in over 2,500 head injury cases in total to date via specific neutraceuticals that support the body’s natural ability to produce the correct chemistry. Today, anyone with a Traumatic Brain Injury can access our treatment protocol.
Due to increasing demand, Dr. Mark Gordon and we at the Warrior Angels Foundation, have started our own physician network where we educate, train and certify other physicians to implement the Gordon-Protocol. Our goal is to help over 100 sufferers of Traumatic Brain Injuries and their families per year. If you want to learn more about our mission or you want to support Warrior Angels Foundation, visit www.waftbi.org.
Andrew Marr, MBA is a husband, father, Retired Special Forces Green Beret, Warrior Angels Foundation Chairman and Cofounder, and the best-selling co-author of TALES FROM THE BLAST FACTORY: A Brain Injured Special Forces Green Beret’s Journey Back from the Brink. His book has been turned into the award-winning documentary, Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain by EMMY and Academy Award winners.