There's Help for Traumatic Brain Injury/Polytrauma Veterans - VA North Texas Health Care System
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VA North Texas Health Care System

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There's Help for Traumatic Brain Injury/Polytrauma Veterans

Dr. Robinson (left) and Dr. Roth (right) offer an interactive group therapy discussion.
Thursday, May 10, 2012

With a new generation of Veterans come new challenges. The Global War on Terror has brought a renewed sense of mission as young men and women with war-related wounds and traumatic brain injury (TBI) return home and seek VA care.

More than half of all combat-related injuries sustained by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were the result of explosive weapons. Improvements to body armor and surgical stabilization on the front lines of combat have made it possible for more individuals to survive these types of injuries. Consequently, more soldiers are returning from war zones with polytrauma.

Polytrauma is multiple complex injuries that cause physical, cognitive, psychological and social impairments and functional disabilities. Common injuries in blast-related polytrauma include open wounds, traumatic amputations, spinal injuries, eye conditions, musculoskeletal system disorders, psychiatric problems and TBI.

Our polytrauma team provides a full range of medical and support services within the hospital and outpatient services using an interdisciplinary team consisting of:

  • physicians
  • social workers
  • neuropsychologists
  • nurse case manager
  • blind rehabilitation specialist
  • physical therapist
  • occupational therapist
  • speech language pathologist
  • recreational therapist
  • prosthetist and other disciplines. 

Services include

  • neuro rehabilitation
  • cognitive rehabilitation
  • state-of-the-art prosthetics
  • visual rehabilitation
  • psychological services
  • physical and vocational rehabilitation
  • recreational therapy
  • on-going case management

"VA North Texas has always had capabilities to provide care for TBI/polytrauma injuries," said Richard Robinson, M.D., medical director of TBI/polytrauma. "But our efforts have ramped up to provide a polytrauma suite for treatment and recovery of the more than 16,400 Veterans enrolled for health care who served in Iraq and Afghanistan." Robinson noted that nearly 1,900 of the patients treated are women. 

Veteran Linda Johnson wounded her shoulder while serving in the Army as a military police (MP) with the 302nd MP Company in Iraq. She is thankful for the TBI/polytrauma program and the VA services she receives. "I encourage Veterans coming home to learn what VA has to offer them. The staff and programs at Dallas VA have helped get me back to everyday life," Johnson said. "Before my military service began, I managed a health club and enjoyed interacting with my clients. After I returned home, I noticed I was only comfortable being around my family, which was odd for me." Johnson added, "The program is helping me not to avoid strangers and crowds."

There are various treatment levels, including a group therapy day program designed for Veterans and active duty service members with brain injuries or multiple severe injuries. The program focuses on improving functional skills and community re-integration. Services are offered in a way that will challenge, support, promote recovery and help one adjust. Shanan Roth, Psy.D., is the program coordinator and shares some advantages of group treatment. "Each patient's physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, social and job training needs are assessed which forms a stronger sense of self and community," Roth said.

A new TBI/polytrauma suite is scheduled to open in August that will encompass TBI/polytrauma specialists and disciplines in one central location on campus. For more information about the program, please contact Devilen Jones, LCSW, at 214-857-2346.

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