So when we talk about those early stages of recovery after a severe injury,
the process is just completely overwhelming. A loved one's entire life has fallen away
from underneath them. They're thrown into a new culture where they speak
different languages and they don't spend as much time explaining things as they
probably should. And then you've got on our end a service member or a civilian who's
having severe pain or confusion and all these different issues. Early on it's just
incredibly important to allow people to process--to allow people to exhale a bit.
I can't tell you how many times I've had a discussion with a family member,
usually a mother or a wife to say, "Go sleep. Get a good meal. Take a walk.
You don't have to be here 24 hours a day." It usually takes them a couple of days to
recognize that. But to rebuild your strength, because your strength is going to be
incredibly important in the long run. And then for the patients and the service members
on our end, it's just about building trust. We don't fix people in medicine. I think there's
this really deep misconception that because we have all of these fancy tools and all of
these medications and all of this money that goes into it that we fix people--that we make
people back to what they were, and that just isn't the truth, particularly when we start
to talk about complex rehabilitation medicine after something bad has happened.
What we can do is help people rebuild their lives and the complexities of their lives,
but it's about getting that idea across early on is that, we're here with you. Have faith
in us and trust us. We don't have magic wands. We don't have crystal balls, but
hopefully if we are together and we're honest with one another and you're okay
with it when the medical team says, "We don't know." Hopefully as you go through
that process, there can be a really strong treatment alliance that focuses
together--that can help kick down the barriers.
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Despite all the tools and medications doctors have to help patients recover, they cannot "fix" someone with complex injuries. But they can work with that person recover and rebuild a full life.
Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Erica Queen, BrainLine, and Dan Edblom.
Shane McNamee, MD serves as chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Richmond VAMC and has worked extensively on the development and implementation of the Polytrauma System of Care in the Veterans Health Administration.
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