A car collision left John Sharpe in a coma for 40 days, and doctors weren’t sure if he would ever wake up. Through treatment with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Sharpe made a full recovery from a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), and now, as a VA counselor, he helps others who have sustained TBIs.
The former Air Force staff sergeant shares his story in a new video released today in recognition of Warrior Care Month by A Head for the Future, a TBI awareness initiative from the Department of Defense. The video is also available on the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury YouTube channel.
Sharpe’s first memory when he woke up was hearing that he might need 24/7 care for the rest of his life. He started therapy through the VA Polytrauma System of Care. Sharpe credits his successful recovery to his health care providers, who encouraged and motivated him. Today, 25 years after the car crash, Sharpe serves as a peer counselor, helping service members and veterans with TBI overcome the same challenges he faced.
For Sharpe, seeing a mental health provider turned his life around and saved his marriage.
Therapy, he said, “allows me to work a full-time job, carry [on] a normal life and have two kids. So don’t feel bad if someone says that you may need to seek a mental health provider. Please do it. The military and the VA [have] the best health care providers in the world when it comes to traumatic brain injury.”
According to recent Defense Department data, more than 352,000 service members were diagnosed with TBI since 2000 — most in noncombat settings. Sports-related incidents, motor vehicle collisions, falls and training accidents are the most common causes of noncombat-related brain injury among service members.
“During Warrior Care Month, we are raising awareness of resources available to injured service members as well as their families, caregivers and others who support them. A Head for the Future features a variety of TBI resources, including videos of service members talking about their personal experiences in recovering from TBI — and sustaining hope.” said Scott Livingston, director of education at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC). “John’s compelling story — and all of our A Head for the Future video testimonials — show that TBI recovery is possible with medical therapy and family support.”
The A Head for the Future video series features service members and veterans who, like Sharpe, recovered from TBI with proper medical care. Visit A Head for the Future to learn more, and follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook.