Michael Blois is a brain injury survivor. We first met him a number of years ago through our close association with the St. Michael’s Head Injury Clinic. With our help he went on to law school and articled with Howie Sacks & Henry in 2014/2015.
This is Part 1 of Michael’s four-part series of articles about how he was injured fighting in Afghanistan, how he responded to his injuries, how he learned to seek out help from others, and how he used that help to achieve new goals for his life, while living with the effects of a brain injury. _______________________________________________________________________________________________
I deployed to Afghanistan at the end of July 2006 for what was my second and last tour of duty in Afghanistan. I had been in the military for six years and was very proud to be a soldier. I was a member of six platoon, Bravo Company, first Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment. Our job for the six plus months of our tour was to remove the Taliban from the areas in the south of Khandar Province. We knew it was going to be a difficult task and mostly likely bloody, but we were up for it.
The first major event of this tour was Operation Medusa, a mission to clear the Taliban out of the Panji-Way district, an area that was used as a base for most of the Taliban`s activities in southern Afghanistan. It was during this operation that causalities began to mount. The fighting was intense. I was first exposed to large blasts on this tour at this time; some as the result of enemy rockets or improvised explosive devises and others from our use of plastic explosives. Just after Operation Medusa concluded a member of my Section stepped on an improvised explosive device that was designed to destroy our armoured vehicles. The blast from the explosion was massive, and sadly took the life of my friend.
Doctors have told me that the exposure to the explosions I experienced before being wounded are contributing factors to the severity of the brain injury that I suffered on January 29, 2007. This account comes from what I have been told of the incident because I have no direct memory of what occurred.
My platoon was in a defensive position and was tasked with securing a vital area while a road was being constructed. We had been attacked on several occasions while in this position and were prepared for anything.
In the evening of January 29, 2007, I and another soldier were in our Lav III armoured fighting vehicle watching the surrounding area for signs of the enemy. Apparently I noticed some kind of movement in the low light conditions, and called it in on the radios. When suddenly, our vehicle was struck by some kind of explosive, presumably a rocket propelled grenade. When the first rocket hit the Lav I was exposed out of the top of the vehicle using binoculars to look for the enemy. From this point forward, a firefight with the Taliban ensued, lasting more than four hours. During this firefight, I was firing the machine gun mounted to the top of the Lav. This left me exposed to the blast waves of the explosions from the rockets, blast waves that are moving at more than the speed of sound and can easily cause catastrophic damage to the brain.
I remained in my position to fight the Taliban, knowing that the risk of personal injury was high, but I was in the best position to determine where the enemy was and relay it to the rest of the soldiers involved in the firefight.
After the firefight I was moved back to Khandar airfield because of what was later to be diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury.
In Part 2 of this series, Michael discusses how he downplayed his symptoms because he did not know, or appreciate, how serious his condition was.Part 1: How I Sustained my Brain Injury Part 2: Denial of My Brain Injury Part 3: Acceptance of My Brain Injury, and the Road to Recovery Part 4: One Door Closes and Another Opens…