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Winn clinic helps heal invisible wounds
Dr. Aviles with 50 cal simulator
Dr. Maria Aviles, clinical psychologist chief for Winn Army Community Hospitals Warrior Restoration Clinic, stands with the 50 caliber machine gun simulator used in the clinic to help soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injuries and combat operational stresses. - photo by Randy C.Murray

Not all combat wounds are easily seen by a soldier’s battle buddies, family members or even medical providers, according to Dr. Maria Aviles, clinical psychologist chief for Winn Army Community Hospital’s Warrior Restoration Clinic (WRC).

She said traumatic brain injuries (TBI), combat operational stress and chronic pain don’t look like other injuries, and they cannot be treated like other injuries because they don’t heal like other injuries.

“We want to take care of the whole person,” said Aviles.

She said many of the patients seen at the WRC for TBI have additional injuries, including amputations. And trauma from these injuries often contributes to unseen wounds that even the soldier isn’t always aware of.

“Many soldiers go through a pain/depression cycle following an injury,” Aviles said. “Chronic pain reminds them they can no longer play with their kids the way they used to or do other things they’ve always enjoyed doing. They have to learn to make adjustments in their lifestyle, and that takes time.”

Aviles said most of the TBI patients seen in her clinic are there for injuries incurred in combat, usually from exposure to mortar shelling and improvised explosive devices.

She emphasized that combat injuries are not like most sports injuries, nor are they treated like sports injuries. A team of doctors may work with the wounded soldier, including a neurologist, psychologist, speech therapist and ophthalmologist, she said.

Through this holistic medical treatment, the WRC helps the soldier recover from his injuries and return to duty, or it prepares him to return to civilian life if the Army decides his injuries prevent continued service, she said.

Read more in the Jan. 11 edition of the News.

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