Military News

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Focusing on the Future: Shooting Survivor Works Toward Recovery



By Lori Newman Brooke Army Medical Center

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Feb. 26, 2018 —Under the watchful eye of his physical therapist, a patient slowly worked a weighted towel across the floor by turning his left ankle. This was just one of several exercises he performed during his rehabilitation appointment at the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center here.

“This actually feels pretty good,” David Colbath said as he worked diligently to strengthen his ankle.

Seeing him now, it’s hard to believe Colbath was shot eight times a little over three months ago on a peaceful Sunday morning in a small country church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. That day, a lone gunman took the lives of 26 people and forever changed the lives of 20 others who were wounded by the gunfire.

Colbath is one of eight people who were brought to Brooke Army Medical Center with multiple gunshot wounds Nov. 5, 2017. The 56-year-old was shot in the right arm, calf, ankle and several times in his backside. “God didn’t do this,” he said. “Evil came into our church, and evil through the devil did this.”

Before coming to BAMC, Colbath had never been in a hospital. After spending three and a half weeks in the hospital and undergoing five surgeries to repair his wounds, he said, he is grateful to be alive.

BAMC surgeons repaired Colbath’s right arm using a vein from his leg to reconstruct one of two blood vessels in his forearm to restore blood flow to his hand. Following the reconstruction by the vascular team, an orthopedic surgical team performed nerve reconstruction in the same area and rotated muscle over the vascular and nerve reconstruction to prevent infection and allow his arm to heal.

“I think our trauma team and all the trauma support services performed exceptionally well,” said Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Brandon Propper, vascular surgeon and program director for general surgery. “We were able to get into the operating room very quickly and re-establish vascular flow in a timely fashion to give him the best chance of limb salvage.”

Thankful for Treatment

Colbath is thankful for the treatment he has received at BAMC. “I think BAMC is the greatest trauma center in the world,” he said.

BAMC is the Defense Department’s only Level 1 trauma center and is one of two Level 1 trauma centers in San Antonio. Alongside University Health System, BAMC administers lifesaving care to more than 4,000 trauma patients each year, from an area that stretches across 22 counties in Southwest Texas and encompasses 2.2 million people. Of the over 4,000 trauma patients admitted each year, 85 percent are community members without military affiliation.

“Within the first week I was at BAMC, I started to realize the true sweetness of every doctor, every nurse, every practitioner, whoever they were -- they were truly good people coming to help me,” Colbath said. “I can’t remember all of their names, but they were truly sweet, good people.”

Colbath’s injuries are slowly healing, but he still experiences pain from the physical wounds inflicted that day. “I want to focus on my recovery now; what happened in the church is in the past,” he said.

As part of his recovery, Colbath is working with physical and occupational therapists at the Center for the Intrepid two to five days a week to regain movement and strength in his arm, hands and ankles. The CFI team is using a combination of therapeutic exercises including high-intensity interval training, strengthening, cardio and balance to help Colbath return to his previous level of functioning.

“I’m a driven man, and the staff here are driven people,” Colbath said.

“We have a wonderful clinical team here at the CFI,” agreed physical therapist Oluwasegun Olomojobi. “We all work together in making sure he is able to reach his functional goals.”

Colbath said he already has noticed a tremendous increase in the use of his hands in the short time said he has worked the CFI staff. “Three weeks ago, I couldn’t get down on the ground and get back up without crawling to something to get up,” he added. ”Now I can get down and back up on my own, and I’m happy about that.”

Impressive Progress

Olomojobi said he’s been impressed with Colbath’s progress. “He has improved tremendously since his first day here at the CFI,” he said. “He is fully integrated into all that the CFI offers and gives a 110 percent effort every visit. We’ve seen improvements in virtually all areas of his rehab care.”

As part of his rehab, Colbath, an avid hunter, is working with Scott Fitzgerald, the firearms training simulator instructor, to learn how to shoot left-handed. Fitzgerald is helping Colbath with his hand/eye coordination and physical stance as he gets used to using his left hand to squeeze the trigger. He also showed Colbath different ways of loading and chambering the gun, as well as new techniques for sighting the target. “I’ve been hunting since I was 6 years old,” Colbath said. “But this is all new to me.”

“We are taking the muscle memory he already has and changing it from a right-hand dominancy to a left-hand dominancy,” Fitzgerald explained. “It’s going to take time for that to feel more normal, but he moves very well doing it.”

Fitzgerald said he has noticed a marked improvement since Colbath began using his left hand as his dominant hand when shooting.

“A loud noise still scares me,” Colbath admitted, explaining that a few weeks earlier, he was at a party and a balloon popped. “I nearly had a cow, it scared me so much,” he said. “So, I’m not ready to shoot a live gun yet. But I want to prepare myself for it, though.”

Colbath said he’s fully committed to his recovery.

“I don’t want to leave anything on the table,” he said. “I want to be as well as God will let me. I want to say that I went to the [Center for the Intrepid] and we did everything possible. … I want to know that I made every effort to be as well as I can be.”

Military Sports Medicine Doctors Support Olympic Athletes



By Sarah Marshall DoD News, Defense Media Activity

BETHESDA, Md., Feb. 26, 2018 — Dreams were realized, records were shattered, and memories were made this month in Pyeongchang, South Korea, by the 244 members of the U.S. Olympic Team who competed in 15 disciplines across seven sports ranging from snowboarding to ice dancing to curling.

But there was another select U.S. team in Pyeongchang, working out of the spotlight and not going for the gold. This team was charged with caring for the blisters, pulled or strained muscles, cold-related and other illnesses, broken bones, and all of the other potential health care needs of our nation’s most elite athletes – and a Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences sports medicine fellowship alumna was among them.

Dr. Allyson Howe served as the head physician of the U.S. Olympic women’s ice hockey team, which won the goal medal against Canada in this year’s games. This was Howe’s second trip to the Olympics; she supported the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where she served as a general physician for U.S. Olympic Committee staff, family members and former Olympians.

Although Howe was the only USU program graduate to provide support to the international athletic competition this year, she’s not alone in her support for the Olympic Games. Retired Army Col. (Dr.) Kevin DeWeber, Army Col. (Dr.) James Lynch, Army Col. (Dr.) David Haight – all alumni of the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship at USU -- worked behind the scenes to care for those competing for medals during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Haight and fellow alum Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Peter Muench supported the 2014 Sochi games with Howe.

2005 Fellowship

Howe, a former Air Force physician, was selected for the National Capital Consortium's Military Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship based at USU in 2005. She went on to teach family and sports medicine in the Air Force at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, and later at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine, after leaving the Air Force in 2008. She joined the Air Force Reserve, and later the Air National Guard, retiring with 20 years of combined military service.

Howe also worked as a team physician for American University, the U.S. Naval Academy, the University of Southern Maine, St. Joseph’s College of Maine, and for the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League. In 2010, Howe started working with Team USA as a team physician for the International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championship, and has since worked with the U.S. Women’s National Team. In 2014, she transitioned to her current position as the head team physician for the women’s program.

“I wanted to be a hockey player when I was 10. I tried to get my dad to let me, but it didn’t fit in our family plan,” Howe recently told the Portland Press Herald. Instead, her path ultimately led her to Sochi, and now, South Korea. “This is a very special trip,” said Howe. “It’s a dream come true to work with such dedicated and high quality athletes and people. It’s been quite inspiring to see how the team and staff have prepared every day over the past four years to reach the ultimate goal.”

Similar Dreams

For years, DeWeber shared similar dreams, aspiring to care for the best of the best as an Olympics physician. A 1992 USU School of Medicine alumnus, he was selected to serve as medical director of the High Performance Training Center, a 10-acre complex near the Olympic Village, where a number of USA teams trained and lived for several weeks for the 2016 Summer Olympics. He was chosen out of hundreds, he said, because of his experience over the years as a volunteer at the Olympic Training Center.

As the medical director in 2016, he served alongside several other providers who stood by to provide care for American athletes, officials, and delegates from wrestling, fencing, taekwondo, archery, boxing, judo, rugby, diving and gymnastics. He said the Olympics committee chose him for this position because he had graduated from a military fellowship – they liked that he had “excellent training” in addition to having the experience that helps military members think outside the box, problem-solve and embrace hardships while working as a team.

While on active duty, DeWeber served as director of the NCC Military Primary Care Sports Medicine fellowship at USU from 2007 to 2014. He was also responsible for the health and well-being of military athletes from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force during the 2007 Military World Games in India, which are modeled after the Olympics.

In 2011, he was the medical director for the military games in Rio de Janeiro. He retired from the Army in 2013 after 25 years. Today, he practices as a family and sports medicine physician in Vancouver, Washington, and, as he told The Columbian, his next big dream is to work as a physician for an Ultimate Fighting Championship event.

Lynch, an active duty Army physician and NCC Military Primary Care Sports Medicine fellowship graduate, also supported the 2016 Summer Olympics as a team physician for USA Swimming. He applied for the Olympics volunteer program in 2011, and his first assignment was to support an international competition in Russia and Germany.

Sports Medicine Physician

He has stuck with swimming ever since, treating chronic conditions, performing a variety of procedures, and assessing musculoskeletal injuries. He also now works as a sports medicine physician for U.S. Special Operations Command and, prior to this role, served as a command physician for U.S. Special Operations Command Africa.

Muench, also an active duty Army physician and NCC Military Primary Care Sports Medicine fellowship graduate, supported the 2014 Sochi Olympics, running the Team USA Medical Clinic, along with another physician, an athletic trainer and a chiropractor. They were available 16 hours each day at the mountain site, providing U.S. athletes “sideline” medical coverage at all alpine skiing, ski jumping, snowboarding, and “sliding” -- skeleton, luge, and bobsled -- events.

“We worked on a rotating basis in the clinic, so if I wasn’t at the clinic, I was on the mountain covering an event,” Muench said. “Being part of Team USA as a team physician at the mountain site during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, was truly the experience of a lifetime. It was incredibly busy, absolutely rewarding, and unbelievably fun.”

Haight, a former Army World Class Athlete Program physician and NCC Military Primary Care Sports Medicine fellowship graduate, supported the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio as a primary care physician for the Olympic Village, managing respiratory and gastrointestinal issues as well as mosquito-borne infections – even treating migraines caused by glaring lights and camera flashes.

He’s also had the privilege of supporting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games, and will soon cover USA Wrestling in Zagreb, Croatia, for the World Championships this summer.

‘Something Else Entirely’

At the Olympics, Haight said, he provided basic sick call and evacuation management assistance, as needed, and he also took advantage of his military training to provide basic tactical combat casualty care training to other providers. His journey started with a simple two-week internship at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center, he explained, working for the sports medicine directors, Dr. Bill Moreau and Dr. Dustin Nabhan. He was invited back to help provide medical coverage for the Sochi Winter Olympics. There, he said, he had the unique opportunity to care for athletes in the mountain village, providing daily medical coverage on the mountain for skiing, snowboarding, bobsledding and other events.

Haight said he was first hooked on operational sports medicine after he supported the Council Internationale Sports Medicine World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2008, during his sports medicine fellowship. The CISM was created during World War II as a way for countries to come together through sports. Traveling with athletes and providing ringside, field-side and poolside coverage of sporting events is “amazing” – and a noble calling – but the opportunity to interface with international peers and athletes is “something else entirely,” he said. He cherishes the many fond memories and friendships that he made around the world.

“As military physicians, we have a unique perspective on ‘operational sports medicine.’ … You might find yourself serving your country in a means you never imagined,” Haight noted. “If you have an interest in sports medicine and are serving as a provider in the armed forces, you should not just consider the Armed Forces Sports Medicine fellowship, you should apply immediately. If you are an Armed Forces Sports Medicine fellowship-trained provider, you should take the time to coordinate a two-week elective Internship with the U.S. Olympic sports medicine department at one of their Olympic training centers. You won't regret it.”

Face of Defense: Dual-Military Couple Experience First Deployment Apart



By Army Sgt. Ryan Tatum, 50th Public Affairs Detachment

FORT STEWART, Ga., Feb. 27, 2018 — For six years, from high school sweethearts to Army soldiers, Sgt. Karrington Austin and Spc. Dominique Austin, both assigned to 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment here, have been dedicated to each other with no end in sight. Although married life is tough for any couple, dual-military romances face unique obstacles, but can withstand the test of time with love.

The Austins started off as best friends during their junior year at Ross Sterling High School in Houston, Texas.

“It was the last three months of our junior year when we started dating,” Dominique said. “It was then over the summer I knew she was the one I wanted to spend my life with. I formulated a plan to propose and marry the love of my life.”

The stage was set for Dominique to propose at the biggest social event for teenagers -- prom night.

“It was right after the announcement of the prom king and queen when my friend went up to the disc jockey’s booth, explained to the DJ what I wanted to do and without hesitation he handed me the mic,” Dominique said.

“She said yes,” he said. “Didn’t skip a beat.”

“I said yes,” Karrington said. “And nothing has changed from the first time he proposed.”

Crossroads

The Austin’s relationship came to a crossroads as their time in high school was coming to an end. “Pomp and Circumstance” played, speeches were made and cap tassels were moved from left to right, May 29, 2015.

Dominique felt an incessant urge to serve his nation and made the decision to enlist in the Army.

“He felt the Army was the best thing for him,” Karrington said. “At the time, I wasn’t completely sold on going to college either, so, when he told me he wanted to join the Army my reaction was, ‘Me too!’”

Fearless of the perils they were destined to face together, the couple wed in September 2015 and began their journey as soldiers. Dominique as a cavalry scout and Karrington as a culinary specialist.

Enrolled in the Army’s Married Couples Program, they were able to both be assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas. And while being in the same location lessened the stress of a potential long-distance relationship, time apart was still a huge factor in their young marriage.

Overcoming Challenges

“The first year of marriage was difficult because our time together never quite synched,” Karrington said. “When he would come home from the field, five days later I would go out to the field. It was hard, but we maximized the time we had together.”

Karrington’s unit was deactivated and she was reassigned to Dominique’s unit, which then put them on similar schedules.

Making the most of their time together, Dominique and Karrington kept their flame going, even as they transitioned to a new base.

“As soon as we got to Fort Stewart we were told then that we are getting ready to deploy,” Karrington said. “It was what we signed up for, and we did it together.”

The couple went on two rotations to Europe with the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. Their unit is slated to deploy to South Korea next, but only Karrington will be going forward.

“My soldier will soon be honorably discharged from the Army and this will be my first deployment without him,” Karrington said. “Even though it will be tough, I am more focused on my contributions to my unit and my soldiers, because for most of them it will be their first deployment.”

Though her mind is focused on the task at hand, her heart is filled with the love of her husband, Karrington said.
“The true love we share for each other transcends the boundaries of space and time,” she said. “And no matter how far away I may be from him he is with me in spirit.”