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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Rehab Center could help wounded warriors

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Congressman Roy Blunt, at right, with traumatic brain injury specialist Dr. Tom Martin, at left, discussed the approaches used at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center in Mt. Vernon to treat injured veterans. [Photo by Charlie Meeks, Lawrence County Record]
Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt sees a resources in Mt. Vernon that could have national ramifications. He recently toured the Missouri Rehabilitation Center specifically looking at ways to help veterans from across the country.

According to Dr. Thomas Martin, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) expert at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center who treats patients at Walter Reed Army Hospital outside Washington, D.C., as many as 20 percent of veterans returning from combat in Iraq may suffer from TBI and not know it. The condition is often confused with posttraumatic stress syndrome due to similar symptoms but is caused by an actual physical injury due to concussions from explosives.

The Veterans Administration gets calls to its Wounded Warrior program from family members reporting something is wrong with the family's soldier, asking for help. Martin has concluded many veterans develop problems that could have been avoided had better medical intervention been available.

The Missouri Rehabilitation Center has specialized in TBI since 1985 and is one of the top facilities in the country for treating the condition. Knowing of the facility's expertise and that 55,000 Missourians have now served in Iraq, Congressman Blunt has been working to help the Veterans Administration and the Missouri Rehabilitation Center forge a closer relationship.

On his recent tour, Blunt went to the sixth floor of the Rehabilitation Center, where the TBI wing is located. Blunt spoke to several veterans about their injuries. One of the symptoms reported by Jerry Eubanks, a soldier from Springfield who had been in four concussive blasts during 15 months of duty, is having difficulty doing more than one thing at a time. One of his treatments has been working with a therapist and switching from one task to another every 30 seconds. Therapist Linda Richards told Blunt patients like Eubanks can get help with memory issues by carrying a global positioning device to help with directions or a personal digital assistant for quick recall of basic information.

Blunt also made stops at the Rehabilitation Center's fourth floor, which is widely known for having one of the most successful programs in the country for weaning patients off of ventilators, and the Gene Taylor Veteran Satellite Outpatient Clinic on the second floor.

The Missouri Rehabilitation Center has more capacity than it uses, the Congressman observed. The resource capability makes it possible for the Veterans Administration to make greater use of the facility in getting veterans the help they need.

Making connections for veterans living at great distance may prove more difficult. Speaking at a news conference at the conclusion of Blunt's visit, Doris Cassidy, assistant director of the Veterans Administration for the region, said there are transportation and payment issues to work out.

Dr. Martin stressed finding medical providers on a local level who can apply the techniques developed in Mt. Vernon is a major key to bringing veterans toward recovery.

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