By Rachel Ponder, Aberdeen Proving Ground News and Margaret Tippy, MEDCOM PAOApril 9, 2013
He seems to have the energy of 3 or 4 people -- working tirelessly on projects he cares about. "I put my heart & soul into things I care about," he told me in passing one day. And that he does. This one-person dynamo presented an entire day of educational opportunities to not just his immediate community but reached out worldwide so others could share in the program he had put together for Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness (TBI) Month. Staff Sgt. Joseph C. Hill, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Behavioral Health Clinic at Aberdeen Proving Ground's Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic (KUSAHC), is a person who seems to have unboundless energy.
Once Hill had his program put together he started contacting Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) worldwide to invite them to dial into the program. As a result, more than 300 people had an opportunity to hear the Subject Matter Experts he had gathered together. Fort Stewart, Ga., two areas on Fort Campbell, Ky. and a site on Aberdeen Proving Ground were all able to connect and be a part of the program. Dunham U.S. Army Health Clinic, Carlisle, Pa., and RODACH in Puerto Rico tried to dial in, but experienced technical issues and the bridge creator couldn't get them connected, Hill said.
Esteemed experts in the field of adult, child and sports-related brain injuries spoke at the brain injury awareness event held at the post theater March 28 from 1 to 4 p.m. The interactive discussion was led by professionals from the Brain Injury Association of Maryland and the Kennedy Krieger Institute, allowing for questions from the audience.
The audience also had the opportunity to participate in a sensory and perception simulation exercise, which replicated someone living with a Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI. Models of the brain were also on display.
Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic sponsored the event in honor of March being designated as Brain Injury Awareness Month. Every year 1.7 million people, including 475,000 children, in the United States sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury and 3.1 million individuals live with lifelong disability as a result of TBI.
"I feel as though we have set a huge precedence in the behavioral health community, especially as such a small clinic," Hill said. "I work with an amazing team here and without them, something of this magnitude would not have been possible. I would hope that next year will be even greater and bring more awareness to not only the Aberdeen Proving Ground Community but every military installation across the United States."
"Brain injury awareness is an issue that needs to be addressed in every community," said KUSAHC's chief of Behavioral Health Care Services Wendy Witmer. "TBI can result from numerous causes including contact sports, falls, motor vehicle crashes, combat situations, etc."
KUSAHC's Hill, said that this event will help loved ones of TBI survivors better understand the symptoms.
"People generally associate brain injuries with active duty service members but in reality it affects the entire population," he said. Hill added that symptoms can vary from person to person, and are usually not obvious to the outside observer. Physical symptoms include dizziness, sensitivity to light and occasional nausea. Cognitive symptoms might include difficulty with concentration, memory loss and clouded thinking.
"The effects of TBI can impact physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning, which may result in poor school or work performance, decreased productivity, and an inability to complete the mission," Witmer said.
"It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of TBI and provide treatment as soon as possible in order to provide the greatest potential for recovery."