Surfing to Success: A Veteran’s Unique Therapy for TBI

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.