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Veterans Health Administration


Powerful Accounts of Recovery from Brain Injury

Man in a therapy chair pushing hard with his legs. Therapist assisting.

Staff Sergeant Ben Ricard, on the road back from Traumatic Brain Injury

“No matter how tough it is, it gets better.”

A Traumatic Brain Injury happens when something outside the body hits the head with significant force.

This could happen when a head hits a windshield during a car accident. It could happen when a piece of shrapnel enters the brain. Or it could happen during an explosion of an improvised explosive device.

That’s what happened to Staff Sergeant Ben Ricard.

In November of 2009, Ricard was driving a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle when he hit a roadside improvised explosive device. The blast blew him through the door of the vehicle.

Ben suffered two broken legs, a broken arm, a broken back, and a traumatic brain injury.

Ricard began his recovery process at the Veteran's Affairs (VA) Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA medical center in Richmond. After significant therapy and treatment, including learning to walk again, Ben returned to an active-duty Marine Corps unit.

Read the full story of his treatment and recovery.

“Recovery is about finding, opening, and getting through doors.”

According to Dr. Lucille Beck, “There is no shortage of powerful accounts of recovery to share from the TBI community. Veterans, service members, caregivers, technicians, nurses, doctors and staff all have very unique perspectives on what ‘recovery’ means to them and how they have been affected.” Dr. Beck is Chief Consultant, VHA Office of Rehabilitation Services, Office of Patient Care Services.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, a good time to learn more about what TBI is and what the Veterans Health Administration is doing to deliver health care, learn more about brain injury and improve the research and treatment of America’s Veterans.

On VA’s Polytrauma/TBI web site, you can read about:

  • VA Polytrauma/TBI System of Care – What it is and how it works
  • Family and Caregiver support
  • Research and Advancements
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Terminology and Definitions
  • The Brain and its Functions

Individuals who sustain a TBI may experience a variety of effects, such as an inability to concentrate, an alteration of the senses (hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch), difficulty speaking, and emotional and behavioral changes.

Whether the TBI is mild, moderate, or severe, persistent symptoms can have a profound impact on the injured survivor and those who serve as caregivers.

Each patient responds differently to rehabilitation, because each TBI is unique. While some patients treated in the polytrauma programs are able to return to active duty or return to work, others will continue to need more intense supportive services and care.

Watch the full video, From Surviving to Thriving and follow commentary on the PSC Bulletin from patients, doctors, caregivers, and technicians on issues and stories surrounding polytrauma and TBI.

As Dr. Beck notes, “The one constant across all of these patients is the extraordinary courage, determination, and spirit that these injured Veterans and service members, their families, and caregivers demonstrate while facing the daunting realities of their condition.”