By Kirstin Grace-Simons (Madigan Army Medical Center)November 16, 2018
Editor's note: Madigan Works! is a new video series created especially for social media platforms to inform patients and the general public alike what goes on behind-the-scenes to make Madigan work. Each episode will have an accompanying article. Shining a light inside the Intrepid Spirit Center to see how warrior care happens at Madigan is the current focus.
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- On the surface, warrior care is Madigan Army Medical Center's mission. Yet, the term means something more specific than providing health care to service members. When a service member sustains an injury or illness, whether on the battlefield or elsewhere, helping them heal and find their way as a whole human being gives warrior care its unique definition.
As Madigan recognizes Warrior Care Month throughout November, the Intrepid Spirit Center quietly fuses a myriad of fields of care to offer a holistic approach to healing brain injuries.
"Recovery and transition, that's what the Intrepid Spirit Center is all about," said Col. Suzie Scott, deputy commanding officer at Madigan.
The center houses a variety of programs to offer an interdisciplinary approach to addressing not only the injury to the brain itself, but all the underlying conditions and impacts that affect healing.
While it works with service members in many situations, it can offer the most intensive care to those Soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion, who have had injury or illness alter their path to the point where their sole focus must be on healing.
One such Soldier who has taken great advantage of the center is Spc. Bryan O'Dell.
"In April of 2017, I had a car accident where my car flipped off I-5 and it landed upside down. Then I crawled out of my own windshield. Then, a school bus came and hit me with my own car. After I got hit by my own car, I don't know if I was between my car and the school bus or under the school bus, but I got dragged 80 feet. I ended up getting a traumatic brain injury from all that. I spent four months in the hospital, in two different hospitals," said O'Dell.
In the time since his accident, O'Dell has been transferred from his transportation unit, where he performed utility and equipment repair for air conditioning units and heaters, to the WTB. He is in the process of separating from the Army through a medical board.
He has spent hours upon hours at the center engaging in physical, occupational and creative arts therapy sessions. He has seen and been evaluated and cared for by neuropsychologists, behavioral health specialists and nurse case managers.
He has gleaned bits of wisdom and formed his own resilient outlook on the world along the way.
He found physical therapy particularly challenging.
"There was times that I knew what I was able to do before. I just kept trying to push hard for it. It made me take a step back, and it's like baby steps. I need to kind of slow down a little bit, let things happen," he said.
Creative arts therapy allowed O'Dell's creative juices to flow and helped him identify a way forward.
One of the art projects completed by many center patients is the creation of a mask, which helps them express their unique insights and aspects of their journeys without words. O'Dell added elements off to the sides of his piece to show how easy it is to get sidetracked in the healing process.
"Things can pop up and they'll get distracted doing something else instead of fixing what the main problem was," he said.
He was especially taken with a saying he heard in therapy that he attached to the top of his mask. "We can give you your day back, what you do with it is up to you," it reads.
O'Dell deems a new appreciation for life the most rewarding part of his recovery.
"It pretty much shows you, don't take life for granted. You're able to keep going, like a new beginning. It would kind of keep you smiling because I have a second chance," he said.
He can see a positive and strong future ahead for himself. In it, he relishes a chance to parent his 2-year-old son more fully than ever before. He expresses a determination to live without fear or hesitation.
"I'd push forward to it, I won't hold back; I'll just do it," he said.
As for his advice for a service member coming into the center after him, he offers encouragement.
"Keep moving forward. Even though it's a hard time, eventually things that are hard, it will get softer. Just keep moving forward, and just keep pushing through it all. Because things will be alright. Everything will be alright; just keep going with it. In the long run, it's gonna be good," he said.
To see this video episode of Madigan Works!, check out the Madigan Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/MadiganHealth/