The Fort Stewart Warrior Restoration Center teamed up with the Fort Stewart Fire Department on March 27 for an event held at the Main Exchange.
March was Brain Injury Awareness Month, and Kim Whyte, a psychology technician at the Warrior Restoration Center, said the intent was to teach the community about the most common causes of traumatic brain injuries.
A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control, every year at least 1.7 million TBIs occur either as an isolated injury or along with other injuries.
“Most people associate TBIs with the military,” Whyte said. “However, a concussion can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. It can happen to a child on a playground. It can happen in a home. It can also happen in sports.”
Whyte said typical symptoms associated with a TBI include dizziness, nausea, forgetfulness, amnesia, loss of consciousness, confusion and headaches. However, she said, there are a host of symptoms that vary depending on the severity of the injury.
The psychology technician said the most common cause of brain injuries is vehicle accidents, both car and motorcycles.
To demonstrate how TBI patients are handled after car accidents, the Fort Stewart Fire Department conducted a vehicle extraction on-site during the event. It took four firefighters approximately 15 minutes to rip the vehicle completely apart. They punched out the windows, chopped out the windshield, cut the poles, peeled back the roof and lifted the dashboard.
“Having the fire department here to showcase what they do for possible TBI patients reminds everyone to drive safely without texting, alcohol or other substances that might impede their driving ability. We don’t want to go through this when there is an actual person involved,” Whyte said.
In addition to providing a visual demonstration for TBI awareness, the vehicle extraction also provided hands-on training for the firefighters.
“We have one really young firefighter on our truck,” Fire Lt. Jonathan Way said. “He’s just out of training, so this was a great opportunity for him to get hands-on time with the actual tools.”
Way, who has been with the Fort Stewart Fire Department for five years, said they took their time during the demonstration to ensure everyone knew the strategy and tactics. However, during an actual emergency, he said they try to respond during the “golden hour.”
“From the time the incident occurs to the time it takes to get the patient to the hospital and into surgery should be less than one hour,” he said. “We respond to a lot of car accidents on Highway 144 east, so I’d like to remind everyone to slow down, take the extra five minutes and be safe. There’s no need to rush when something like this can happen.”