On September 11th, 2013 many people spent time remembering those that lost their lives that terrible day twelve years ago. After more than a decade of war we are just beginning to look at some of the effects of war on service members and their families. The rise in cases of Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress is of huge concern. Many service members are suffering with and not getting help for these hidden wounds.
In an effort to advance the research and treatment of TBI and PTS, on this September 11th the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund dedicated an $11 million “Intrepid Spirit”NICoE (National Intrepid Center of Excellence) Satellite at Fort Belvoir. The satellite facility will serve Fort Belvoir with similar services to the original facility located on the campus of Naval Support Activity, Bethesda.
First Lady, Michelle Obama, marked the important date by visiting the newly dedicated center, touring the facility, speaking with service members and their caregivers. The center will be crucial in the recovery of service members; it is the first of nine planned satellites to be built around the country. The second of these facilities will open at Camp Lejeune in October, with a third to break ground soon, at Fort Campbell, Ky (mid-2014). All of the Intrepid Centers will be 25,000 square feet and cost $11 million dollars. The centers, built with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, will be gifted to the Department of Defense. They will be erected on military bases and medical facilities throughout the US. The main facility, at Bethesda, will continue to be where research and study takes place.
There are four pillars of treatment at the Center: nutrition, sleep, exercise and adaptive resiliency. The Intrepid Spirit is an absolutely beautiful facility, great care was taken with each decision made regarding its construction. Dr. Heechin Chae, Chief of the NICoE “Spirit” stated that one of the first things he noticed when consulting with service members on the construction was how important the environment and especially space would be. What Dr. Chae has discovered in those he treats is how small details concerning how they negotiate the space, like a slight tilt or an odd movement, needs to be observed and negotiated. The addition of mirrored walls in all of the physical therapy areas can help with observing how those small details can affect movement. The open floor plan accommodates those with physical disabilities, and those without. Even without physical injuries, those suffering from PTS and TBI can have difficulty negotiating space in crowded areas. So an open floor plan and soothing colors offer a more relaxed environment specific to the needs of those with PTS or TBI.
One of the newest additions to the program is the fully equipped apartment. This is a unique aspect of the adaptive resiliency pillar. The stresses of having to negotiate things like a dryer buzzer and the telephone ringing at the same time, while interacting with a loved one, are worked through here. Having a family member or caregiver is actually a requirement of the program. They can be with their families and still work, which is such a crucial part of their recovery. What I love the most about the center is the fact almost all of the men and women that come there can remain on active duty. The attention that is paid to the person as a whole shows a dedication to the healing process.
Adapting to the everyday tasks can also be challenging if a brain injury and/or PTS isn’t discovered right away. Dr. Chae described it as roadways in the brain. When an injury is sustained, or a trauma experienced, new roadways are built to adapt to the change. Those roadways may work for a short time, but not for the long term. The four pillars, and especially the resiliency portion, can repair misdirected roadways.
I am so excited for what this type of program will mean to our service members. Do you have thoughts or questions on this type of program? What do you think is one of the most important aspects of treatment?