RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Traumatic brain injuries are quickly becoming the hallmark wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
In response to the influx of soldiers with brain injuries, the McGuire VA Medical Center has built a new Poly-Trauma Center. Doctors hope the new center will help injured soldiers rebuild a life of value and satisfaction.
"I know was in the Marine Corps, I just can't remember exactly what my situation was," said David Henry Baum. He is a prime example of the devastating effects traumatic brain injuries can have on memory.
"Apparently I got hurt in the Marine Corps, I hope it wasn't anything too awful," Baum said.
Baum spent three years in the Marine Corps before getting injured. But his brain injury came later after a motorcycle crash back here in the United States.
"Don't remember that, don't remember the crash, don't remember any of the other hospitals, don't remember anything else," he said.
David is now transitioning from hospital life back into society. Dr. Gary Goldberg works with Baum in the outpatient clinic.
"The biggest challenges have to do with the residual effects of the brain injury on cognitive function and on communication and social interaction skills," Dr. Goldberg said.
Dr. Goldberg said his patients go through the process of re-learning and recovery on both a biological and personal level.
"They have more difficulty being put into social situations and interacting with other human beings in a social environment either in the work place, or at home, or out in the community," he said.
Patients can practice some of these skills at the medical center. A store helps strengthen many key areas: cognitive skills, social interaction, and multi-tasking -- tough stuff for veterans recovering from traumatic brain injuries.
"We'll take the patient out into the community maybe to the mall, maybe to a restaurant, a sports venue and see how they're doing," said Dr. Ajit Pai of McGuire Medical Center. "See what kind of obstacles they encounter in the community and then we'll bring them back and work on those particular needs in the therapy gyms."
McGuire is putting the finishing touches on a new center that will deal specifically with poly-trauma patients and traumatic brain injuries.
"I think it will generate a new energy in our efforts to help individuals with recovering from traumatic brain injury," Dr. Goldberg said.
New energy that David Henry Baum hopes may generate some new memories.
"I don't know how are minds work after getting hurt," he said. "I don't know why it's working like this. I wish I could get all of that stuff back."
The new Polytrauma Center is scheduled to open next month at McGuire VA Medical Center.