March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. As part of its observance, Winn Army Community Hospital’s Warrior Restoration Clinic partnered Wednesday with Fort Stewart’s Installation Safety Office and the post’s fire department to hold a Traumatic Brain Injury Prevention expo outside the main Post Exchange.
The expo provided information to help soldiers and family members protect themselves and their loved ones. It included tips on motorcycle safety, texting and driving, seat belts, signs of a concussion and shaken baby syndrome. Post firefighters demonstrated how they would extract someone from a wrecked vehicle.
“We’re here to talk about vehicle and motorcycle safety — everything from personal protective equipment to rules of road,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jorge Markin of the Installation Safety Office. “We facilitate the post’s motorcycle safety program by scheduling it, notifying students about time changes and ensuring the contractor, who actually conducts the class, is in compliance.”
Markin and Don Estep responded to questions about the safety course from soldiers and family members who came by the PX during the lunch hour. They said several installation leaders have completed the motorcycle training course, including Col. Kevin Gregory, U.S. Army Garrison commander for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield.
Kim Whyte from the Warrior Restoration Clinic worked to get PX shoppers to come by her table. She stepped out onto the sidewalk and invited people to look at the information she had on head injuries. With persistent charm, she convinced retired soldier Elton Dudley to look through her stack of literature on distracted driving and installing child safety seats.
“We give classes at outlying schools about the risks for concussions, whether it’s on the playground, sports or driving,” Whyte said. “This is useful information for parents, teachers, coaches and school nurses.”
Although the clinic is primarily for soldiers, the clinic staff also works with the family primary care clinics. She anticipates they will be dealing more directly with family members soon, noting the clinic now has marriage and family therapists.
One of those therapists, Supervisory Clinical Psychologist Chief Maria Aviles said this is the first year the clinic is doing community outreach to highlight information about traumatic brain injury, which is not limited to deployed soldiers.
“As a therapist, what I found myself doing was reaching out to the whole family of those soldiers with TBI or (post-traumatic stress disorder),” Aviles said. “It affects the whole family. We’re the only center in the U.S. that’s doing this right now.”
When the fire truck arrived, the crowds grew. While dressed in full gear, the firefighters laid out their equipment, including a generator, steel bars and poles, a spreader, a cutter and a ram. A car wrapped in caution tape was the intended target. In short order, the side and rear windows were broken out with a punch device, then two firemen chopped out the windshield.
After one of the firemen pried openings in the doors, another, wielding the spreader, opened each door and removed it. A cutter then was used to clip the support braces supporting the car’s roof, and four firemen folded back the roof. The final piece of equipment deployed was a ram, which Capt. Jason Lyons said is used to lift dashboard consoles off accident victims.
Lyons and Lt. Harold Harris explained each step of the extraction, noting that if the vehicle was on fire, one team would deal with the fire while another got the victim out. Lyons said all his firefighters are certified emergency medical technicians, so they don’t have to wait for an ambulance.
When they arrive at a wreck, they first assess the victims for injuries, he said. They treat any injuries then extract the victim.