New hospital dedicated to a different type of war veteran

Thu Nov 10, 2011 6:54pm EST
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By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Since Marine Staff Sergeant Benjamin Ricard hit an improvised explosive device in 2009 that blasted him out of an armored vehicle in Afghanistan, he's been on a mission to recover from a traumatic brain injury he says would have killed him if not for today's military medicine.

"My injury is scary," Ricard told Reuters. "Nightmares, terrors, not being able to sleep. And when you talk, there is this yawning sound in the back of my head. You fear, and you fight through it the best you can."

A new rehabilitation hospital opening in San Antonio this month -- similar to the one treating Ricard in Richmond, Virginia -- will focus on addressing the severe physical and emotional wounds common to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

From special flooring suited to wheelchairs to unique stairwells designed to prevent suicide, the three-story, 85,000-foot Texas facility seeks to meet needs of war veterans who have suffered the types of catastrophic wounds that would have left them dead on the battlefield 20 years ago.

"They were healthy young men before, and we are committed to making sure they will be healthy young men again," Dr. Jim Wells, Chief Medical Officer for the Veterans Administration's $67 million San Antonio Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, told Reuters.

The facility's mission is to provide acute rehabilitation to those who have suffered major wounds to more than one body system, with an emphasis on brain injuries, Wells said. It is next door to the bustling Audie Murphy VA Hospital and across town from the San Antonio Military Medical Center, the largest U.S. military hospital in the world.


It's one of five polytrauma units the Veterans Administration has been opening around the country in the past two years in response to the drastic drop in the number of wounded soldiers who die from their injuries.   Continued...