SANTA CRUZ -- Soquel resident Karen Egan is reaching out to combat veterans who can't shake the nightmares and post-traumatic stress of the battlefield with yoga.
Egan is preparing to launch a new nonprofit called Bridging Warriors, which will offer weekly yoga classes at the Resource Center for Nonviolence on Ocean Street. She plans to be up and running by March 7.
There are an estimated 14,500 veterans in Santa Cruz County, and Egan estimates at least 40 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"We believe it's 100 percent," she said. "It can be the smallest thing that triggers PTSD."
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a severe anxiety illness that can develop after an emotionally shocking experience such as war or an accident.
PTSD sufferers usually struggle with short tempers, difficulty sleeping, fear, depression and coping with daily life. Relationships with others often deteriorate amongst those with the illness.
Egan's personal experience with PTSD isn't connected with the military or war.
Rather, she became somewhat of an expert on the mental illness when her son Ben, who's 26, started showing symptoms after he was involved in a major car accident eight years ago.
Egan said her son suffered a traumatic brain injury when his car was broadsided by another vehicle making a left turn in front of him.
To this day, he still has trouble with focus and organization.
"You don't have to be a combat vet," Egan said. "Bridging Warriors is bridging a gap that needs to be filled in the community."
Dean Kaufman, who works with war veterans daily through his job as the Santa Cruz County veteran advocate, is a strong supporter of Egan's efforts with Bridging Warriors.
Kaufman, 43, served in the Army from 1986-1993 as a missile repair technician, including a year deployment to the first Gulf War.
He said he was lucky enough to escape PTSD, but he sees its damage in about half of all the veterans who visit his office.
"I think it's awesome what Karen's doing. It takes all methods to resolve these issues," Kaufman said. "I support it 100 percent and will be working to get the word out about what she's doing."
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