Traumatic Brain Injury team explores vehicles at the Integration Motor Pool
April 11, 2014
FORT BLISS, Texas (April 16, 2014) -- To gain a better understanding of injuries Soldiers sustain when collisions occur within various military vehicles, a team of medical experts from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, El Paso VA Health Care System, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) visited the Integration Motor Pool last week at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Quite often, medical teams around the world have Soldiers come in with incidents, such as head and neck injuries, deriving from "Stryker" and "tank" collisions, roll-overs, or simply wear and tear of their bodies from working within these vehicles.
While sustaining injuries in vehicles is not unusual -- the visiting TBI medical team tasked in developing a treatment plan for injuries have minimal access to these types of combat vehicles.
Pedro Maldonado, a nurse case manager with El Paso VA Operation Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn Program, contacted Fort Bliss inquiring about the possibility of bringing team members to see common vehicles.
Upon hearing about this medical dilemma, Col. Gail Lynn Washington, project manager, System of Systems Integration Directorate, invited the TBI team from the VA to the motor pool to get a firsthand look at the vehicles.
"I was stunned when I found out that our VA medical team had never had interaction with vehicles our Soldiers work with," said Washington, "so when I was asked to give them access to the vehicles I knew that it would beneficial for current and future veterans."
Washington personally escorted the guests around the motor pool, while Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division answered questions and demonstrated how they maneuver naturally in and around the vehicles.
"We have veterans come in who have serious and repeated mild injuries," visitor Dr. Jacquelyn C. Williams, OEF/OIF/OND program coordinator explained, "some of them had little concern for their injuries while in the combat zone, but are experiencing lasting symptoms from their experiences like chronic headaches."
As a Polytrauma Point of contact within the Polytrauma System of Care, the team does screenings to identify veterans in need of ongoing brain injury treatment.
Understanding the cause of impact is vital to their assessments and the entity's research goes beyond the military - it has even helped in creating safety procedures for football players of all ages.
"His arm was around the wrong side of the safety blade gun," the team's neurologist Steven Glusman reminisced about an injury one of his patients incurred, the memory came back while Glusman was exploring the belly of an M1A1 Tank, "it was fired, the recoil hit him and he lost his arm."
That was just one instance of many where the medical professionals were able to connect patient feedback to the real life Soldier environment.
As they piled into a Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle they realized how some of the veterans have "slammed their face" or head against the equipment -- injuries such as these have caused loss of consciousness and amnesia.
"Being here helps because our patients describe different incidents and now we know what they are talking about when they talk about the hatch and other mechanisms of injury," Williams continued, "this gives us a better idea of what damage can be caused if they are not using their restraints and what they mean when they say they were 'bounced around' in a vehicle."
Veterans who live in El Paso may contact: El Paso VA Healthcare System, OEF/OIF/OND Program Manager, Dr. Jacquelyn Williams, PhD, APRN (915)564-6100 ext. 6414. Those living outside El Paso who have questions regarding their own experiences or injuries in combat zones may contact the OEF/OIF/OND Program at their local VA healthcare facility.