JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Air Force 1st Lt. Jason Hibbetts sits in front of a mirror practicing his salute. This simple action that used to come so naturally now requires much more concentration because the cyber warfare operator, husband and father of two young children suffered a stroke in October 2018.

After his stroke, Hibbetts was referred to Brooke Army Medical Center's Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service, which provides comprehensive out-patient neurorehabilitation for service members, family members and military retirees who are recovering from a stroke or other brain injuries.

"My first goal was to walk again, because I was in a wheelchair," Hibbetts said. "That made just simple things like getting around the house take much more time."

"He is like super dad, so he needed to get back to his regular duties with the kids," added his wife, Ashley Hibbetts. "One of his big goals was to pick up the kids again. He wanted to be able to do bedtime routine, cook for the kids, get on the floor and wrestle, and play football."

"(At BIRS) we work to optimize our patients' physical, cognitive and emotional functioning in order to help them achieve their goals," said Dr. Amy Bowles, BIRS chief. "Ultimately, we hope to get people back to doing the things that are really important to them in their daily lives.

"People think a lot about traumatic brain injury, but there are also people who have brain injuries from other things, such as stroke, aneurysms, tumors, all sorts of things," Bowles said.

At the BIRS, each patient has an individualized treatment plan based on their needs and goals. Patient engagement is critical, and the support of family members is highly encouraged throughout their rehabilitation process.

Bowles said having family members involved in a patient's treatment plan is very important.
"They are there every day. They are our eyes and ears in terms of what we need to work on in terms of rehabilitation," she said. "They are also critical support for somebody as they go through this and they are also going through it themselves."

Hibbetts and his wife are pleased with the strides he has made over the past months.

"I feel great about the progress I have made," Hibbetts said. "I have definitely been able to pick up the kids and roll around on the floor with them and get out of my wheelchair."

"We got here with a wheelchair and they quickly got him into a cane," Ashley said. "Whatever his goal was, they believed that he could do it and they worked to make it possible."

The BIRS uses an interdisciplinary approach including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology, recreational therapy, psychology, neuropsychology and case management.

"One of the things that is really unique about our clinic is that we work together as a team," Bowles said. "It's not just a collection of people. Our team has the luxury of being able to talk with one another and work together, and work with the patients and families."

The staff meets weekly to discuss their patients' goals and how they are progressing to meet them.
"One of the things I like most about the clinic is there are multiple therapists, like speech and occupational therapy and physical therapy all together," Hibbetts said.

Normally in a hospital all these services are in separate clinics, but everyone is here in one place, he added.

"I would absolutely recommend this clinic, because they have a very special way of working with the problems you have," Hibbetts said. "They know exactly how to approach things, so you don't get overwhelmed. They do a very good job. I would just like to thank all of them for everything they have done for me and my family."

Hibbetts' wife agrees.

"They are creative in the therapies and they really listen to us as a family," Ashley said. "Anything that we have needed, as simple as a button hook to make life a little easier, they have provided. We are very happy here."

Bowles wants people to know about the resources and services that are available at the BIRS.
"A lot of times people don't think about sending someone for rehabilitation if they are doing pretty well, but those patients are who we can sometimes help the most," Bowles said.

The BIRS is located on the lower level of BAMC within the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic. For more information, contact the BIRS Case Manager at (210) 916-8537 or the main clinic number at (210) 916-8693.

To view a video about the BIRS, visit https://www.dvidshub.net/video/707368/brain-injury-rehabilitation-video