Breaking Ground At the Center of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury

June 8, 2008

In late January I told our readers about the DoD Center of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, that will be directed by newly promoted Brig. General Loree Sutton. I’m happy to let our readers know that on Thursday May 5th, the offical ground breaking ceremony was held in Bethesda, Maryland. What’s unique about the groundbreaking ceremony, is that Wounded Warriors joined Brig. Gen. Sutton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake in breaking ground for the new center. The center will provide state of the art treatment and is scheduled to open in late 2009. The center will provide rehabilitation and follow-up treatment for servicemembers suffering from TBI, PTSD and other complex psychological issues. The center will also serve as a research, testing and educational center.

“Above all, this center represents America’s dedication to providing first-class treatment for Troops who may be suffering combat-related stress and mental illness,” Gates said.

“Recently, the military, along with our partners in the VA and private sector have gone a long way toward putting programs and processes in place to deal with the psychological consequences of what has turned out to be a long war … This facility will provide a holistic approach featuring the latest advances to provide care for Troops and their Families throughout the recovery process,” Gates continued, noting that while technology has saved the lives of Soldiers, their brain injuries are not well understood yet.

One of the Wounded Warriors who participated in the ground breaking ceremony, was SPC Freddie Meyers. On May 3, 2007, SPC Meyers was shot in the head with an armor-piercing round that drove pieces of his skull into his brain. That resulted in a traumatic brain injury so catastrophic, that his doctors believed that he died three times.

The goverment is dedicated to ensuring that our Troops receive the best care for TBI and PTSD that is available. Because of this dedication, the facility will serve as the research & educational branch of the Defense Center of Excellence for psychological health and TBI. The goal is to promote resilience, recovery and reintegration for servicemembers and their Families. To date, the DCOE has screened around 50,000 primary-care visits for depression and PTSD and coordinates with 18 TBI training events this year alone.

“We;re gathering date as an Army today with chain teaching, where we chain teach 900,000 Soldiers about TBI & PTSD symptoms,” added Gen. Richard Cody, vice chief of staff of the Army. “Now we’re doing that with the Family members as well as doing our post-deployment health assessments. That is telling us what the population is in terms of what we’ve got to deal with. Plus, to elminate the stigma, we have to have Soldiers come forward. While that’s ongoing, we need much, much more research, not just as the military, but as a country, into how the brain works and how we can get the brain back in balance when it is injured.”

The center will use state-of-the-art treatments for Soldiers suffering from severe TBI, including, but not limited to neurology, neuropsychology, psychology, cognitive therapy, pharmacological therapy, occupational therapy, gait lab, outdoor and sight rehabilitation spaces, vehicle and firearm simulators and a virtual reality room. The center will also provide educational and recreational facilities for Families and the Fisher House foundation will build three new Fisher Houses, so that Family members are able to stay close to their Soldier, as he or she recovers from their injuries.

“Wife wife’s support is why I’m still alive, because my life actually did flash before my eyes, and I saw my wife and I couldn’t bear the thought of her being alone. This is what I was told, but apparently the few times that I died, I grunted and woke up and saw the doctor doing CPR on me,” said SPC Meyers, who added that his wife Jessica has been there through every step of his recovery and multiple treatment centers.

Now that he’s on the road to recovery, Meyers said that he would like to train as a physical therapy assistant. A job that is definitely not out of his reach.

“I’m hoping to do that so I can help people who are injured and tell them my story and tell them to keep a positive attitude,” he said.

What better role model, then someone who has “been there, done that” and has experienced many of the same hurdles that patients with serious TBI have to overcome. I’m sure that SPC Meyers will be an inspiration to each and every Wounded Warrior that he comes into contact with.


Got something to say?