The Power of Sports

A photo of Kirk M. Bauer, the executive director of Disabled Sports USA

By Guest Blogger Kirk Bauer, Executive Director of Disabled Sports USA

I lost my left leg above the knee to a grenade during an ambush in the Mekong Delta serving in the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1969.

After returning to California from Vietnam and enduring seven surgeries in six months, it was hard to imagine I could ever have a good quality of life. Fortunately, during my hospitalization at Letterman Army Medical Center, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Jim Winthers, a fellow Army veteran who served in the 10th Mountain Division in World War II. He taught me to ski with one leg, along with a handful of other Vietnam veterans who had recently become amputees.

When we first met and Jim suggested I try skiing, I thought he was crazy, but I agreed to go with him just to get out of the hospital. From the first moment he took me out on the slopes, I was hooked and I was motivated to see what other challenges I could take on.

Skiing taught me that I could have a great life.

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The Everyday Things

Photo of Kathleen and Aaron Causey with their daughter AJ sitting on Aaron's lap

By Guest Blogger Kathleen Harris Causey, Coming Home Causey

You might not notice it at first. I know I didn’t. You think to yourself, as you stare at your newly catastrophically injured person lying in the hospital bed, and wonder how so much of life can change in an instant: “We can do this. My person is alive. We will make it and it will be wonderful. Even better than it was before.” You watch inspirational YouTube videos, invest emotionally in the Paralympics and Warrior Games, and find all relevant Facebook communities.

But disability seeps into your everyday in ways that you probably can’t articulate, even when you’ve been living with it for a few years. Or three, like us. Even when everyone else new in your life is living with something similar. It’s about where your dishes go – usually exposed, on the counter like clutter, because the cabinet is too high and he needs to be able to reach them. Figuring out where to fit the coffee mugs and glasses – some down low next to the spices for him, and others higher up where they usually go for you.

It’s when you learn that a range-top microwave is not safe, or that where you need to keep your medications makes them accessible to your crawling, growing child. It’s about space under a sink for a wheelchair to fit, or torn up cabinets in an apartment that you will have to pay to repair. Strange marks that appear on all the walls and doors where prosthetics and wheelchairs and other things rub, as you just try to get inside and prop things up when it’s raining outside. It’s not only forgetting your phone charger in the hotel room, but the prosthetic limb charger as well.

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Helping Disabled Veterans to Start Small Businesses

An image of an American flag with the shadow of a military veteran saluting.

By Guest Blogger Cecelia Taylor, U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Communications and Public Liaison

If you are a veteran or service-disabled veteran, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has resources to help you start and grow your small business. From creating a business plan to finding your first customer, we’re here to help you succeed.

SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) exists to serve the veteran-owned small business community. Veterans are a particular focus for SBA because veteran-owned small businesses account for a large percentage of small businesses.

Did you know?

  • An estimated 8.3 percent of veteran business owners have service-related disabilities.
  • Veterans are at least 45 percent more likely than those with no military experience to be entrepreneurs.
  • U.S. military veterans own 2.4 million businesses (or nearly 10 percent of all businesses nationwide).
  • Veteran-owned businesses generated $1.2 trillion in receipts (i.e., four percent of all businesses’ receipts nationwide) and employ nearly 5.8 million people.

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Surpassing Your Plateau – Asking Yourself “What’s Next?”

A photograph of Adam Anicich, a national expert in the fields of PolyTrauma and traumatic brain injury.

By Guest Blogger Adam Anicich, Deputy Director for Legislative Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and PolyTrauma/Blast-Related Injury Executive Committee Member for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

What do you plan to do with your life? Now ask yourself, what do you plan to do with your life after a traumatic injury?

The invisible wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan afflict hundreds of thousands of Service Members. Our veterans are returning home with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and various other injuries. Many times, their lives take a dramatic turn after they are injured in service.

When speaking to Congress, I regularly use this anecdote to describe the lifelong commitment the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has with America’s veterans: When a 20-year-old Service Member is injured in Iraq, he or she may receive acute treatment and rehab at Walter Reed for a year – maybe 18 months – and then, they are transferred into VA’s system of care – for the next 70 years! As VA’s PolyTrauma or counseling teams begin working with the Veteran, there is almost always a noticeable and measurable improvement in patient outcome. This improvement is a combination of patient engagement, the excellent providers at VAs across the country and the vast array of effective tools and research VA has at its disposal.

As the majority of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan draw to a close, fewer and fewer Service Members are newly entering treatment for traumatic injuries. Many veterans have been involved in their own care and recovery for months or years by now and have made substantial progress; but they may no longer see the noticeable improvement in cognitive function, memory or other outcomes as they once did in the beginning of their treatment. I call this “TBI Plateauing.”

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Why Did I Become an Amputee Coalition-Certified Peer Visitor?

A photo of Kim Doolan, the clinical coordinator for Allen Orthotics & Prosthetics, Inc.

By Kim Doolan, Clinical Coordinator, Allen Orthotics & Prosthetics, Inc.

The honest answer is because the Amputee Coalition told me I needed to. I was a board member, frequent lecturer and lifelong amputee who had spoken to countless people who had recently undergone amputation surgery. I thought spending a day in an out of town training course was going to be a nuisance.

I was wrong.

The training was excellent. The course helped me better organize my conversations with new amputees and their families, how to recognize elements of recovery and the different phases of emotional adjustment and then, how to respond with helpful suggestions. The course also stressed the power of listening. Often, someone who has had an amputation has also had weeks or months of well-intentioned caregivers telling him or her what to do – he or she has been talked to a lot. I find that during a peer visit, the best thing I can do is hold my words back and let the person I’m visiting have plenty of room for his or her words.

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