Technological advances for war heroes

November 7, 2008 2:27:46 PM PST
Rehab center caters care to the wounded heroes, who are young, healthy and part of the video generation. As the war in Iraq and combat in Afghanistan continues, more and more servicemen and women are surviving-- but coming home with serious injuries. Unlike wars before, these wounded warriors are getting back on their feet and continuing to serve their country.

ABC7 visited what has been called one of the world's most technologically advanced rehab centers. The military says you won't see a place like this anywhere else.

"They told my doc that I was going to be paralyzed and that I would not walk again," said Cameron Crouch. The 21-year-old from Charleston, Illinois, was given that prognosis shortly after his accident in Baghdad. The Army sergeant was on security duty on the rooftop of a courthouse when it collapsed. He fell nearly 70-feet.

"I landed on my feet, shattered my legs broke my pelvis broke my back and I came down and hit my head afterwards," said Crouch.

His right leg had to be amputated. After struggling to regain the use of his left leg, Crouch made the difficult decision to have it amputated, too. He's receiving therapy in San Antonio Texas at the Center for the Intrepid (CFI).

The Center for the Intrepid caters to an unusual population. They are young healthy and part of the video generation. As a result this facility is geared toward they're specific needs.

The facility, which is located right across from Brooke Army Medical Center, stands out for several reasons. It was built from private donations from the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and was handed over to the military in January of 2007. It houses a variety of therapies --some of which have not been seen anywhere else.

"It's a huge difference in the kind of speed to which we can get these guys back to the point that they want to be."

The center has a computer-assisted virtual reality rehab dome; a special gait lab to assist with walking with prosthetics; a two-story climbing wall; and a wave pool that would usually only be found at water parks or on cruise ships.

"They aren't sick. They are injured and we treat them as injured athletes. We use a sports medicine approach," said Rebecca Hooper, CFI program manager.

The young patients know they're lucky to be here for several reasons. Thanks to modern medicine more of them are surviving today. In fact nearly 90 percent of troops in Iraq survive. In Vietnam only 76% of the wounded survived.

The prosthetics are made on site and can be fitted to meet the amputee's immediate needs.

Crouch has taken up golf as part of his therapy. He's recently had surgery and will once again have two prosthetics that will allow him to play the game he has learned to love.

"These soldiers will really put your work to the test because they're so active they want to work and run and get up and go fast so things have to fit well quickly," said Kirk Simendinger. (TRACK) Sgt 1st Class Tawan Williamson is one of the many success stories at CFI. After losing a leg in combat he received therapy there for 10months. One year later he is now on active duty. Williamson is paying back those who helped him by giving support to wounded soldiers who are just starting to deal with their emotional and physical injuries.

"I go there once a month to ensure them and instill in them that no matter what you are going through it will be over with and all you gotta do is keep your faith and stay focused," said Williamson.

The patients at CFI have a drive and determination that leaves everyone in awe-- including the therapist who work with them.

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is now looking to break ground at Walter Reed Army Hospital for a similar facility that would work with service people suffering traumatic brain injuries.


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