US Military Casualities: Amputations at Record Numbers
Last summer a report from the Congressional Research Service based on Department of Defense information was sent to Congress detailing the US military casualty statistics in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Twenty percent of soldiers injured have multiple injuries - and may have traumatic brain injury (TBI) as well as traumatic amputations. All most half of the amputations are caused by IED's. These could be prevented if the transportation vehicles our troops are using had undersides designed to bear the impact of this well known threat. The MRAP is one such vehicle that the Marine Corp is now contracted to produce. It has a V-shaped underbelly desgned to protect against underground devices.
Advances in battlefield medicine have saved many combatants who might have died - but is the rehabilitation they receive up to par? The Center for the Intrepid, a $50M rehabilitation center in opened its doors in San Antonio, Texas in January, 2007 to treat the record number of amputees and troops with severe burns. Amputee rehabilitation programs are run at Brooke Medical Center in Texas, Walter Reed Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Medical Center. Housing has been built at Center of the Intrepid for families of the soldiers in rehab. The Center was funded by private donations from 600,000 US citizens, which means the world to the beneficiaries of the services provided. State-of-the-art technology is provided to military amputees including advanced prosthetics, computerized and video monitoring, biomechanical studies and advanced physical therapy methods.
One of these programs is the art program at the Center, a collaboration between the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Fallen Heroes Fund. The art work was chosen to complement the architecture, to remind visitors of the heroes and the sacrifices they have made for the US, and to support the physical rehabilitation programs and motivate participation in extreme sports. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project has also just made available a publication " A Handbook for Injured Service Members and Their Families". The handbook provides information about what to expect, resources available and issues that will crop up. The handbook is available at www.fallenheroesfund.org.
New generation prosthetic devices are being designed by researchers at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus and the Military Amputee Research Program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The Otto Bock C-Leg has a microprocessor knee and was introduced in 1997. It allows the wearer to go up or down hills and slopes and provides greater freedom of movement. Otto Bock also makes a myoelectric hand that is lightweight, compact and responsive.
If you want to get up close and personal with some of the amputees returning from Iraq, watch HBO's Alive Day Memories: Home From Irag from Executive Producer James Gandolfini. The documentary film premieres on September 9, 2007 at 10:30 PM and continues through September 16, 2007. Don't miss it - I have had a chance to see it and it is very moving. These American heroes have sacrificed their health and well being - they don't want us to forget them.