May 18th, 2006 03:17 EST
Rehabilitation Specialists Team Up To Support Warfighters
Fort Sam Houston, Texas (AFPN) -- Brooke Army Medical Center hosted a military amputee advance skills training workshop for Veterans Affairs’ prosthetists and therapists.
Nearly 100 VA rehabilitation team members from 15 medical centers attended the workshop May 10 through 12 to learn the patient care methods used at Department of Defense facilities to help injured servicemembers recover, adjust to using prosthetics, and return to duty or to a full civilian life.
“We are learning what the military is doing so that when a Soldier comes to their local VA it is a seamless transition,” said Bob Gailey, physical therapist with the Miami VA medical center. “The military has taken (recovery) to a level that has never been introduced before in rehabilitation.”
Because VA centers are seeing servicemembers come into the system with a higher level of skill and more needs, the knowledge shared in the workshop will go a long way in filling that need, he said.
“VA therapists want to be there to help them continue transitioning back into the community so they can get back to playing baseball with their son, go play soccer with their daughter, or go for walks with their wife,” Mr. Gailey said.
The use of prosthetics is nothing new for servicemembers. What has changed, and was the focus of the three-day workshop, is the new level of technologies that are advancing patient’s capabilities.
“We have had exponential changes in technology in the last five years primarily on the use of microprocessor technology,” said John Fergason, lead prosthetist in the BAMC lab. “In DOD, we want to embrace every technology that is possibly available and not limit our soldiers in any way.”
The goal for prosthetics has leaped from simply letting patients walk again to helping them return to duty or participate in athletic sports. With that change, the therapy methods that help servicemembers use the new prosthetics have advanced just as much.
For the workshop, patients joined with four Paralympic and Ironman Triathlon champions to demonstrate the advanced prosthetics and the exercises needed to develop the patient skills to take advantage of the mobility they provide.
“I have seen an overwhelming commitment and dedication in every way for these guys, more than I ever would have expected when I came here,” Mr. Fergason said. “DOD has given me the charge to get these guys going, to give them whatever they need to get them going.”
At the conclusion of the workshop, the VA therapists returned to their respective medical centers to add the therapy methods to their treatment programs. DOD is leading the way for the advancements with today’s servicemembers, but the VA members hope to get the updated devices to veterans from prior conflicts or who have lost a limb from noncombat causes.
“We hope to have this on an annual or bi-annual basis so that we can continue to collaborate and share information back and forth,” Mr. Gailey said. “We are very proud of the fact that we get to serve those who serve us.”