Since 2000, more than 294,000 service members have sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Defense Department hosted a special event at Fort Belvoir, Va., March 6, to raise awareness of brain injury prevention and care.
The event kicks off a month of focus on TBI by the Defense Department and partner organizations.
Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital hosted the event at the Intrepid Spirit Center. The unique facility is the first of nine planned nationwide. The center’s mission is to treat and care for service members suffering from complex forms of TBI and related psychological health conditions.
Military health care experts talked passionately about treatment and care for service members and their families.
“The message today is very important,” said DVBIC Director Col. Sidney Hinds. “Our service members, veterans and their families deserve our best efforts.”
Navy Capt. Jennifer Vedral-Baron, director of Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, joined Hinds in promoting that message.
“Clearly, we are not going to stop seeing traumatic brain injuries even in times of no war,” said Vedral-Baron. “That means despite any operations tempo, we have a lot of work to do, and that work continues daily.”
The three organizations share a commitment to advance research, education, prevention and treatment of brain injury.
Dr. Heechin Chae, director of the Intrepid Spirit Center at Fort Belvoir and DVBIC site director, described a view of care shared by his colleagues at the podium.
“Gaining the trust of the wounded warriors who walk into this building with broken mind, body and spirit is a crucial first step in their journey to recovery,” said Chae. “Only then, our highly trained clinicians can ‘unlock’ the injured brain to tap into its healing potential to reach the best possible outcome.”
Hinds highlighted DVBIC resources that help service members manage life after a brain injury.
“Progressive Return to Activity Following Acute Concussion/Mild Traumatic Brain Injury” is a new clinical recommendation. It provides a stepped process to safe activities after a concussion.
He also highlighted “Back to School: Guide to Academic Success After Traumatic Brain Injury.” DVBIC released this electronic resource last year to help recovering service members and veterans who plan to attend school.
A personal story from an Intrepid Spirit patient at Fort Belvoir was an emotional highlight. Staff Sgt. Jonathan Meadows shared a glimpse into his journey of recovery from the mental and physical effects of blast-related TBI and posttraumatic stress disorder. He sustained these injuries while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He couldn’t remember his children’s names and ages or go to the store by himself. Memory problems are common following a brain injury.
“Something simple I had done all my life, I couldn’t do it, she [his wife] had to take over,” said Meadows, referring to his trip to a popular department store. This was a wake-up call for Meadows that something was not right and he needed help.
Now, Meadows is thankful for the positive strides he has made. He credits a lot of his success to the customized treatment and care received from Intrepid Spirit staff.
“If I didn’t come here, I wouldn’t have hope anymore,” he said. “My heart and my soul have come back. This is truly a blessing.”
While March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, Hinds emphasized the need to keep up the crusade all year around.
More than 80 percent of TBIs in the military occur in a non-deployed setting, said Hinds. Focusing on prevention, Hinds announced a new brain injury awareness, education and prevention initiative that DVBIC plans to launch this month called, “A Head for the Future.”
“We want our service members, veterans and their families to be safe, recognize the signs and symptoms, and seek care when they think they have a head injury,” said Hinds.
Visitors at the event were given the opportunity to tour the facility and learn more about TBI treatment and support programs for wounded warriors and their families.
For more brain injury information, patient guides and clinical recommendations, visit DVBIC.