Robyn Mincher, DCoE Strategic Communications on April 16, 2012
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The documentary, “From Surviving to Thriving,” features personal stories of service members and veterans who received traumatic brain injury treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). (Video courtesy of VA Polytrauma/TBI System of Care)
When doctors at Veterans Affairs Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Richmond, Va., told Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ricard he would walk again, he thought they were crazy. He sustained a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) in Afghanistan from an improvised explosive device. He couldn’t move; he had nightmares and trouble communicating. Yet after seven months of rehabilitation, Ricard headed home, one step at a time.
Ricard shares his story of recovery in the documentary “From Surviving to Thriving,” featuring personal stories of service members and veterans who received TBI treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“I feel like everybody at the VA had a place … and they were all at the right place at the right time,” said Ricard. “They all knew their job and they all knew what they had to do … they are the ones that kept me going, especially when I begged them to quit. They wouldn’t let me.”
On the VA Polytrauma/TBI System of Care website, real stories, such as Ricard’s, will grab your attention. Extensive resources and information are available to support those with TBI and the families caring for them.
“In recognizing the complexity of TBI, VA has taken the lead on developing a closely integrated polytrauma system of care,” said Dr. Jay Uomoto, Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), deputy director for veterans affairs. “This website is a one-stop TBI resource, creating a network of support to educate, connect and most importantly, help those who sustained TBI and their families get the help they need.”
To further understanding of TBI, the Understanding TBI section of the site provides signs and symptoms and helps visitors navigate through the VA screening and evaluation process. These details not only help individuals understand their diagnosis, they also encourage those with possible mild traumatic brain injury to visit a VA center for an assessment.
“Some individuals have no outward physical signs of their brain injuries. Co-occurring conditions such as fatigue, forgetfulness or behavioral changes might be interpreted as post-combat concerns,” said Uomoto. “It’s important that military communities are educated about TBI, and seek help for concerns that result from brain injury and commonly co-occurring symptoms to receive proper diagnoses and rehabilitation."
The website also helps connect families and caregivers with support services in their community, and highlights the Family Caregiver Curriculum, a resource from Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC), a DCoE center. The curriculum provides up-to-date health care information and tools for coping with the challenges of caregiving.
Other unique features of the website include updates on research and advancements in TBI, including information on VA and Defense Department collaboration with DCoE and DVBIC. Readers can find information about developments in clinical practice guidelines, diagnostic codes and treatment programs offered at centers across the country.
For more complementary resources on TBI prevention, diagnosis and treatment, visit the DCoE Brain Injury Awareness month page. There, you’ll find fact sheets, videos, provider tools, family resources and more.