Soldiers Begin Anew After Devastating Injuries | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : Metro Connection

Filed Under:

Soldiers Begin Anew After Devastating Injuries

Play associated audio
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Emily Kopp
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Decades ago, losing a limb might mean completely changing your lifestyle and surrendering your independence. But a gym deep in the bowels of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda is changing that. The training program has allowed hundreds of military amputees to return to full athletic form.

"Walter Reed is the capstone of military medicine, and the amputee center is the pinnacle of Walter Reed," says Capt. Erik Johnson, an occupational therapist.

Therapists here treat amputees like athletes. It's a philosophy that allows amputees to fulfill their personal goals, says Chuck Scoville, chief of the Amputee Patient Care Service.

"When we started taking care of wounded warriors, they came in wanting to return to active duty, to run, scuba dive, and do other activities," he says. "We had to meet their needs, so we developed a program to take them to that high level of activity they deserve."

With their doctors' permission, amputees begin by building up their core strength and regaining their sense of balance, he says. Large beds in the center of the room allow amputees to lie flat while doing upper-body crunches and weight training.

The center's specialists help fit amputees with prosthetics. That allowed them to move on to walking and even playing Frisbee or football.

"We do things you'd see a pro athlete do in a sports facility," says Scoville.

A sports therapist by training, the soft-spoken Scoville is somewhat of a national celebrity now. He recently was honored with a Service to America medal. For federal employees, it is the equivalent of the Oscars for Hollywood.

He estimates that the center has treated 1,500 amputees. Some recently competed in the Paralympics in London. Others have raced triathlons and hiked mountains. One in four return to active duty, but many just want to regain the independence they lost along with their limbs.

"I'm like a toddler again," says Staff Sgt. Christopher Ryan Walker, who lost both arms and a leg when an IED exploded in Afghanistan. "It's hard to ask people to do things for you."

But he won't complain when he goes to the gym, he says.

"You see the others doing it," he says. "There are people who have lost legs and they're in better shape now."


[Music: "We're Gonna Make It" by Mychael Danna from Little Miss Sunshine]

NPR

Lions, Pianos And Boomboxes, Oh My: Movie Artifacts Hit The Auction Block

Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion costume from the Wizard of Oz, the piano from Casablanca, and Radio Raheem's boombox from Do the Right Thing are some of the pieces of Hollywood memorabilia that sold at auction Monday night in New York.
NPR

Take A Bite Out Of Ringo: Giant Cookies Honor Pop Culture Icons

Two self-taught pastry pros specialize in hand-painted cookies of musicians and other cultural icons, from Calvin and Hobbes to Fall Out Boy. Their creations seem almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.
NPR

Federal Ferguson Investigation Will Remain Independent, Holder Insists

The federal probe is examining whether Darren Wilson intentionally violated Michael Brown's civil rights. Justice Department veterans say proving he violated federal criminal law will be difficult.
NPR

Is Digital Learning More Cost-Effective? Maybe Not.

Digital learning initiatives are spreading to schools across the country, but new research raises doubts about how well they work.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.