Navy SEAL: Training Service Dogs is My TBI Therapy
Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on Aug. 28, 2016
Multiple traumatic brain injuries (TBI) left retired Navy SEAL Jake Young feeling agitated, with trouble staying focused. He never imagined that training service dogs would be a key to his recovery.Young was in treatment when his occupational therapist struck on the idea: Train your brain by training others. That training focuses on a different kind of military force — service dogs that help veterans like Young.Working with service dogs helped Jake cope with his TBI symptoms.“I had to memorize their names. I had to memorize the commands. I had to anticipate their actions. I had to speak clearly,” he said. “Even the emotional regulation came out in training the dogs.”Young isn’t the only one benefiting from his work. The dogs Young trains go on to support injured veterans and service members, which inspires him to go above and beyond.“I had to be confident,” he said. “I was helping to train this dog to go on to be a service dog for another service member, so it became a no-fail mission for me.”Before his TBIs were diagnosed and he began treatment, Young’s memory loss and mood changes affected his relationship with his family and his wife, Autumn.“It finally came to a point where my wife said, ‘Either you get some help or I’m out of here,” Jake said.He told his command what was going on, and he began therapy at the military facility where he was diagnosed. Doctors said that explosions during deployments and military training likely resulted in his TBI.Jake advises others to seek treatment for any symptoms that might point to TBI.“The sooner you can start getting help, the better things can be for you,” he says.To watch additional videos of TBI recovery and hope, visit the Stories page.
Surfing to Success: A Veteran’s Unique Therapy for TBI
Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on Aug. 23, 2016
While going through treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, Army combat medic Randy Dexter sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) playing flag football on base. After the incident, Dexter remembers that he “started having a lot of problems: concentration, memory, being all over emotion wise.”Dexter’s TBI was diagnosed at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, where he immediately began treatment. Like many veterans, Dexter found therapy helpful, but his big breakthrough came when he started working with Ricochet, a service dog that shared a passion for his favorite hobby: surfing.Through therapy and surfing sessions with Ricochet, Dexter made incredible progress in his recovery. He began opening up more to his family, focusing on being active and healthy, and enjoying a positive outlook on life. Today Dexter has his own service dog, Captain. “Randy, compared to who he is today, is completely different,” said Judy Fridono, Ricochet’s owner and trainer. “He used to be very quiet and subdued, depressed and anxious. Now he’s just happy, and getting out there and doing things … It’s just amazing to see the transformation.”Dexter, a husband and father of three, is now a public speaker and talks about his experience with TBI to encourage others to seek treatment.“I didn’t think that I’d be able to be the father that I always wanted to be … but now, I think I’m doing pretty good. I definitely didn’t think I could be the husband that I … turned out to be for my wife,” Dexter said.Watch Randy tell his story and describe his unique TBI recovery process. Share it with your networks to raise awareness of the message: Everyone with TBI has the power to get diagnosed and get help.Visit the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center website for more information on the TBI Recovery Support Program and for recovery and treatment resources.
From Accident Survivor to Ski Instructor: A Veteran Recovers From a Severe TBI
Posted by Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center on Aug. 5, 2016
Photo courtesy of Kevin OrmsbyApart from wanting to serve his country, Kevin Ormsby had another reason to go to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado for college: The avid outdoorsman wanted to ski.“I thought, ‘I can join the service, go to pilot school — and ski?’” Ormsby said. “Sign me up!”He thrived at the academy. After graduation, Ormsby traveled to New Zealand to train with members of the U.S. Olympic freestyle ski team. He was on his second run of the day when something went wrong.“I hit the edge of an area where snow had turned to ice, and fell,” Ormsby said. “I got knocked out and repeatedly hit my head as I slid down the mountain. This was in the early 2000s, when it wasn’t required to wear a helmet while skiing — and many people didn’t. If I had been wearing a helmet, I wouldn’t have been unconscious and my injury would not have been as serious.”At the hospital, he was placed in a medically induced coma for a few days, then slowly regained consciousness. His parents flew to New Zealand, where doctors told them that their son had a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and would be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. Yet when Kevin’s mother asked if he could hear her, he softly squeezed her hand.With much of his body temporarily paralyzed, he communicated through blinking and hand signals. Weeks later, carried onto the plane on a stretcher, Ormsby returned to the United States for TBI treatment at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Palo Alto Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in California. Through extensive physical, speech, occupational and cognitive therapy, he learned how to talk and walk again.Ormsby continued therapy and eventually returned to active-duty status. He was able to achieve this, doctors said, because he was in good physical shape, apart from his TBI, and followed medical advice. Today, he copes with lingering symptoms by continuing to take care of himself.“I stay away from things that aren’t good for the brain and body, such as unhealthy food, smoking and alcohol,” he said. “I’m always going to the gym. This helps me deal with vision and balance problems. My friends help me out when I’m bumping into things, because I let them know when I’m having issues. It’s good to talk about your TBI so there’s no discrimination.” After leaving the service, Ormsby went back to the slopes as a ski instructor in California — this time with a helmet.“Whether you’re on the board or skis, if you do not have a helmet, you are 100 percent wrong. You can’t control flukes while skiing, and you have to be protected,” he said.Ormsby is now a civilian working for the U.S. Air Force as a strategic planner in Germany and aims to join the U.S. Department of State.“I recovered above and beyond what doctors thought would be a worst-case scenario,” he said. “With treatment and support, you can strive to be what you want to be.”To watch videos of TBI recovery and hope, visit the Stories page.