One of the more vivid memories of my hospital stay for Transverse Myelitis was my mother’s conspiracy theory for why I was lying in a hospital bed non-functioning from the waist down. She believed that I developed Multiple Sclerosis from something I was exposed to in the Navy. This was one theory that I bought into a little bit.
I went into the Navy after high school in 1994. After boot camp, I was assigned to a pre-commissioned ship, USS Cole DDG 67. When the ship was commissioned, we spent a lot of time at sea. One of my primary duties on the ship was to stand watch. Two of the watches that I would stand every day, were on a platform directly above the port and starboard Aegis radar systems. For two hours a day, I would be positioned within arm’s length from one the most powerful radars in the world. We were told not to look down over the edge because of the radiation exposure. So what would I do…look over the edge.
Even when I wasn’t looking over the edge thinking to myself that I didn’t feel anything, I was positioned over these powerful radars for two hours a shift or four hours a day for as long as we were at sea. There is no doubt in my mind that exposure to these powerful radar waves over time could factor into why I was lying in my hospital bed, non-functional from the waist down. When I was eventually diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I wanted to research my mom’s conspiracy theory. What I learned was surprising:
MS Incidence Study among Gulf War Era Veterans
- Researchers reviewed medical records and data from the DoD and VA for cases of MS in patients who served in the military between 1990, the start of the Gulf War era, and 2007, as well as those who were service-connected for this disorder by VA from 1990 on.
- A total of 2,691 patients were confirmed as having multiple sclerosis: 2,288 definite, 190 possible, 207 clinically isolated syndrome and 6 Neuromyelitis Optica.
- Of those, 1,278 were white males and 556 were white females; 360 were black males and 296 were black females. Of the 200 in the other category, 153 (77%) were Hispanic.
- Interestingly, many earlier studies had found the highest rates among whites of northern European backgrounds.
(Statistics citied from “Surprises in MS Incidence Study among Gulf War Era Veterans”, U.S. Medicine)
While I was surprised at the high incidence of MS among the peers I served with, I was more surprised at what the Veterans Administration (VA) was doing about it. The VA has established the Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence. If you are a veteran living with MS, you need to check out this website for great free resources available to you. This provides great resources for veterans living with MS, ways to connect or hear stories of other veterans living with MS and disability income forms.
On this Veteran’s Day Weekend, I salute the Veteran’s Administration for recognizing veterans living with Multiple Sclerosis. I also want to pay my respects to my shipmates that were lost or wounded during the tragic bombing of my beloved USS Cole in October of 2000. Although I was no longer in the military at the time of the bombing, as long as I live you will never be forgotten. I also want to pay my respect to all veterans and family of veterans. Thank you for your service, dedication and sacrifice. Happy Veteran’s Day!
Me and my friend Anthony on the Cole