COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is drawing in veterans across the country to receive a new, specialized form of care.
OSUWMC’s new military medicine program combines a team of reconstructive surgeons, military specialists, and rehabilitation experts to provide special care to veterans who typically have special needs.
“What we are now facing is that many of these service members that are injured 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years ago have reconstructive needs that are going to continue for a lifetime,” said Dr. Jason Souza, director of the Orthoplastic Reconstruction Program and associate professor in plastic and orthopedic surgery at the Wexner Medical Center. “The problem with combat casualty trauma is that it usually involves multiple different organs, multiple different systems and as a result requires multiple specialists. The idea is to bring all of those specialists together into one place to provide a comprehensive treatment plan.”
Friday will mark ten years since Nick Vogt was injured in Afghanistan. On November 12, 2011, Vogt and his platoon were on foot when they found a weapons cache.
“There were IEDs mounted that we didn’t know about and honestly, then my memory is just…gone,” Vogt said.
“He optimizes the capabilities of the military when it comes to survival,” Souza said of Vogt. “Nick holds the record for the most number of units given downrange from any patient. Over 500 units of blood. He’s the beneficiary of a walking blood bank. Meaning that in Kandahar, they were pulling blood out of people and giving it to him as soon as they got it out. So he has 13 countries represented in his circulatory system.”
Souza says Vogt’s injuries, survival, and subsequent treatment show the need of OSUWMC’s new program.
“It’s one thing to do everything possible to achieve survival and the military exceeds any other institution’s capabilities at that game. One of the challenges though is that survival creates these new reconstructive challenges that persist over timeframes that the military is not as well-suited to deal with,” Souza said. “That means addressing functional limitations and challenges in regards to pain.”
Vogt says after learning to breathe again, it was something as seemingly simple as sitting upright that proved to be his biggest challenge.
“I reached a point where I couldn’t sit much longer than an hour or so…and it took a long time to reach that. Sitting and the inability to sit for long periods affects your casual life, your work-life possibilities, transportation,” Vogt said. “It’s like sitting on your elbows, it’s just putting your
elbows down, putting all your weight on it for a long period of time”
“We used to sit down, order our food and drinks right away and as soon as our food came, ask for the check because we had to leave right away because he couldn’t sit through a dinner,” said Lauren, Nick’s wife.
Earlier this year, Nick underwent a 12-hour surgery with Dr. Souza as part of the military medicine program. Vogt says the difference has been incredible.
“Dr. Souza was able to take a flap of skin from my back, along with layers of fat and the vessels underneath, and put that under my pelvis where I needed the padding,” Vogt said. “That was finally the solution. It’s not the absolute one or anything but it’s definitely a much better quality of life ever since that surgery.”
“Now Nick is able to play with the kids all day and come out from work and join us at the table for family dinner which was not previously possible sometimes and he’s just able to be more actively involved in our family which is of course what we want,” said Lauren Vogt.
Souza says the program is seeking out veterans who meet the criteria for their specialized care.
“The last two decades of military conflict have created more than 50,000 combat causalities,” Souza said. “The vast majority of these service members aren’t satisfied to just have served our country and to exist as a wounded warrior. They want to contribute and in order to contribute, we need to continue to be inventive to find ways to allow them to achieve the level of function and decrease the pain in their lives in order to enable them to contribute in the way that they want.”