Today, whenever Timothy Brown wants to have sex, he needs to stick a needle in the base of his penis. A former staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps*, Brown was severely injured by an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq in 2012. The explosion tore off both legs and his right arm as well as his testicles and a portion of his penis. Physicians have since made a reconstruction with tissue from the inside of his mouth and skin from part of his right leg, but Brown can only stay erect for short periods of time. If he wants to have sex, he needs to give himself an injection of Trimix, a blood-flow stimulant.
As part of Brown’s recovery, he’s had to learn how to have sex all over again. “When your sex drive comes back, it’s like being in high school,” he says, “I don’t know how it’s going to work. I don’t know what’s going to happen.” Regaining the ability to engage in intercourse took him two years.
Brown was fortunate to be part of a treatment program in one of two military hospitals across the nation that has specific sexual therapy classes for veterans. While all Veterans Affairs hospitals offer Occupational Therapy, which includes sexual therapy, the VA Long Beach Healthcare System in southern California and Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, are unique in that they have introduced courses and counseling focused on this issue. The programs offer guidance as veterans recover from genital wounds, and are part of an increasing effort by the military to both address these injuries and protect soldiers from them in the future.