Clinic specializes in Traumatic Brain Injuries
March 15, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The Victory Care Clinic formally opened its doors to patients Monday with a ribbon cutting at Moncrief Army Community Hospital.
Specializing in the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries, the clinic has been in the works for more than three years as the armed forces has placed greater emphasis on detecting and treating these injuries in its troops.
Active duty and Reserve service members have a higher risk of sustaining a TBI when compared to their civilian peers, primarily because of the military's predominantly youthful, male demographic. Many operational and training activities that are routine in the military are physically demanding and potentially dangerous.
Last year, a DoD memorandum required commanders to make sure service members involved in potentially concussive events receive a medical evaluation, even if they showed no signs of apparent injuries. The policy also required all cases of TBI to be documented in electronic medical records.
"This is really a long journey the crew has had," said Dr. Marc Cooper, of the Department of Behavioral Health at MACH. "We actually started screening for Traumatic Brain Injuries back in 2008, before the Army even told us we had to do that."
When the Army began to require screenings for Soldiers potentially suffering Traumatic Brain Injury, no course for treatment was offered for those who tested positive, Cooper said. Doctors ultimately had to send patients to a Polytrauma Unit in Tampa, Fla.
Staff members were gradually added at MACH to deal with the new mandate, which set the stage for the creation of the Victory Care Clinic.
"This has been a long, arduous journey getting this formalized clinic up, but it doesn't reflect the lack of importance of it," said Col. Ramona Fiorey, commander of MACH. "What it does is reflect the importance of it, because we wanted to do it right."
It wasn't enough to hire only staff to directly treat Traumatic Brain Injuries, she said. More than 800 people had to be trained at all levels of treatment.
"(Patients) don't just come to the TBI clinic, they come from all over the hospital," she said.
The staff also spent a lot of time educating prime candidates for future patients, specifically new Soldiers.
"We started out with a dream and nothing else," said Louise Hughes, primary care provider for the clinic. "We went out to the (Sustained Readiness Program) site every Friday when new Soldiers would come in, hand out our cards and give them a briefing on Traumatic Brain Injury. We went to talk to the MPs, we talked to the commanders, we went out there and got out the word that we're here not to get people out of the Army, but to get them better."
What would later become the Victory Care Clinic started with 80 patients in November 2008. By the following February, the clinic had more than 160 patients, Hughes said. An estimated 300 Soldiers have been treated at the clinic during the last three years.
"A lot of our Soldiers not only have Traumatic Brain Injury, but also have some mood disorders, which can be a direct result of a TBI," Hughes said. "If you get one concussion, you're six times as likely to develop a mood disorder like depression, irritability, anger or anxiety. A lot of the Soldiers we were working with, we also were referring them to Behavioral Health, too. Eventually Dr. Cooper became in charge of our TBI program."
Julia Rodes was a guest speaker at the clinic's ribbon cutting. Rodes, whose husband is an Army officer, suffered two severe brain injuries and lower spinal damage last April during an accident while taking motorcycle safety lessons. She lost some of her memory as well as her ability to walk.
"It wouldn't have been possible, and it wouldn't have been as far reaching as it had been, without the support and love of the Army family," she said of her treatment.
Hope is a necessary part of treating any serious medical condition, she said.
"(The) one thing the TBI clinic will be able to give its patients, and continue to give its patients, is hope," she said.