Thursday, September 17, 2009

UK Gulf War Veteran's Life Plagued by Gulf War Syndrome, Still No Effective Treatment

Editor's Note: The U.S. Government officially recognized Gulf War Illness in a November 2008 report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses.

As noted in the article below, the UK has yet to do the same, adding to the struggles of the UK's ill Gulf War veterans.

There are still no effective treatments for Gulf War Illness, which, at best, is treated only by medicating for each symptom as best as possible.


Written by Alison Sanders, the [South Wales, UK] Argus

Newport, South Wales, UK (South Wales Argus) - A Newport First Gulf War veteran who said his life was turned upside down after being plagued with a form of arthritis for the last 15 years is urging the ministry of defence to recognise ‘Gulf War syndrome’.

Phil Brown, 39, of Sheridan Close, The Gaer, was diagnosed with Reiter’s syndrome (a condition that affects the joints and eyes) in the early 1990s just before leaving the army.

His life is now a constant battle against joint pain, short-term memory loss, conjunctivitis, and bowel problems.

He said: “My memory is useless. I get arthritis which moves around my body. It used to stay for about three weeks in one joint but for the last two or three years it’s in my knee and ankle.”

But Mr Brown said he was completely fit before joining the army and now has to constantly alter his life around his illness.

He puts these problems down to Gulf War syndrome - an illness the MOD refuses to recognise.

The National Gulf War Veterans and Families Association describe Gulf War syndrome sufferers as having symptoms such as chronic fatigue, sweats, fevers, joint pain, headaches, cognitive problems and memory problems.

Mr Brown joined the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers in 1989 aged 18.

The father-of-one and step-father-of-three was a craftsman working on tank transporters and went out to Jubail in Saudi Arabia in December 1990.

He worked on moving tanks up to Kuwait and then shifting armour back along the route fixing any trucks along the way.

Mr Brown was in Iraq for four months and said the most traumatic part was seeing the carnage left along the roads.

About a year after leaving Iraq, Mr Brown, who was a keen rugby player, noticed he was aching a lot more than usual after any form of exercise, taking three or four days to recover.

He was rushed to hospital on one occasion after his knee swelled up when trying to bend down.

He said: “My knee ballooned up. It was full of fluid and you could even see my kneecap.

“Everything went downhill from then. I felt like a 90-year-old man in a 20-year-old’s body.”

The former soldier, who left the army in 1994, said he was in and out of hospital for five months, having MRI scans and various types of medication.

This meant an end to his rugby career and he was still ill for more than a year later.

He said: “I couldn’t physically work for more than a year but I couldn’t sit around and do nothing. I wanted to work.”

He got a job as a garage mechanic where he worked for five years but had to give the job up last year when bending over the bonnets made his back worse.

Mr Brown, now a self-employed HGV lorry driver, said: “I don’t see why I should still be suffering now when I came out of the army when I was 25.”

He said he was concerned for the soldiers currently fighting in Afghanistan.

He added: “What’s happening now is not just physical, it’s mental. Later on in life it can come back and bite them. They’ve got to set up some form of programme.”

Mr Brown said he felt and his colleagues were “tossed to the side” but said that hopefully current studies into the Gulf War syndrome will help soldiers when they leave Afghanistan.

Help for UK Gulf War veterans and their families can be found at

SIDEBAR: MoD denies existence of 'syndrome' from First Gulf War

The First Gulf War started after Iraq invaded the Gulf state of Kuwait in August 1990 and ended with the liberation of Kuwait and after Iraq accepted all UN resolutions the following February.

The subject of Gulf War Syndrome has remained a controversial topic and has been linked by some to the troops’ exposure to depleted uranium used during the war.

A Ministry of Defence (MOD) spokesman said medical assistance is provided to veterans by the MOD’s medical assessment programme based at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, and the NHS.

He said financial support is also available to veterans and dependants through MOD war pensions and the armed forces occupational pension schemes, when illness or death is due to service.
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