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Irvan Raises Awareness for Traumatic Brain Injury for Warriors in Transition
Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois: While participating in the Community Based Health Care Organization (CBHCO)-Wisconsin Region’s quarterly Muster nearly 70 Warriors in Transition from across a six-state region were all ears as former NASCAR driver Ernie Irvan talked of his legendary racing career that was cut short by two horrific crashes that nearly took his life. “Living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is tough” he tells his audience. “Sure I would rather be racing, any racer would, but the reality of it is my injuries just won’t allow that. So I decided to retire and do what I feel I can to make a difference.”
Race-2-Safety is a project Ernie has started which focuses on raising public awareness of traumatic brain injury and the preventive measures everyone can do to prevent it. Educating the audience with studies and statistics Ernie wasted no time using his own personal experiences to help the audience understand just how devastating head injury is. He credits track-side healthcare professionals with saving his life at Michigan International Speedway.
Traumatic brain injury, also called acquired brain injury or simply head injury, occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. Because little can be done to reverse the initial brain damage caused by trauma, medical personnel try to stabilize an individual with TBI and focus on preventing further injury. Moderately to severely injured patients receive rehabilitation that involves individually tailored treatment programs in the areas of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, psychology/psychiatry, and social support. Approximately half of severely head-injured patients will need surgery to remove or repair ruptured blood vessels or bruised brain tissue. Irvan underwent several surgeries and procedures to recover from his injuries, including a very rare (at the time) eye procedure. Irvan states he still suffers double vision at varying degrees in one eye.
During his visit with soldier’s in the Medical Hold program Ernie spent time helping the veterans understand the recovery and life of a TBI survivor. “A brain injury is just as devastating, regardless of whether it came from an auto crash, bicycle accident or combat. No two will look the same on the MRI, and what is very different is each and every persons recovery”
Irvan also told the audience how much he respects veterans for who they are, and what they do for our country. “Every time I see a service member in fatigues or a uniform of our Armed Forces, I immediately think respect.” He opened his presentation with, “First and foremost I thank you for what you do to protect our freedom and our country”.
At times during Irvan’s presentation you could have heard a pin drop as soldiers and families absorbed the life experiences of one of the Top 50 drivers in NASCAR history, (as voted by the racing community).
Every quarter CBHCO-Wisconsin hosts these “Musters” which are designed to enable those medical hold soldiers preparing for release from active duty to learn of their veterans benefits, programs and services as they transition from active duty to citizen soldier. Transition Assistance Advisors from each of the six states within the region lead a three-hour block of the week long conference that introduces the veteran and family to resources such as Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve, Veterans Health and Benefits Administrations, Vet Centers, and the US Department of Labor. Each of these agencies is also present to provide one on one counseling service to recovering veterans and their families.
Ernie’s presence brought the realism of the challenges of daily living with TBI directly to those who will join him in enduring this battle for the remainder of their lives. “There is no doubt we are witnessing the beginning of the healing process this week” said an Indiana soldier “Ernie was very inspiring, the TAA’s are awesome and the CBHCO cadre rocks”.