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Fort Knox hospital specializes in brain injuries

FORT KNOX — Soldiers suffering traumatic brain injuries while in Iraq and Afghanistan are being treated with new technology at Fort Knox's Army hospital.

Ireland Army Community Hospital recently unveiled its new traumatic brain injury clinic, featuring high-tech advancements that help repair a soldier's damaged thought processes.

The $1.2 million clinic gives physicians a gamut of programs, video games and exercises needed to rehabilitate memory, sequencing of events, coordination, repetition and even moods, said Maureen O'Brien, an occupational therapist.

"Your brain is an organ," O'Brien told The News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown. "It needs to be exercised."

O'Brien said patient care ranges from reconstructing a model vehicle to helping schedule appointments or track prescriptions with personal digital assistants.

Another is a video game program designed by NASA that detects brainwaves. O'Brien said it doubles as a helpful training tool for astronauts and the military. The program adds distractions, O'Brien said, and varying levels make it more like the world to which the soldiers return.

"It's great if you can do it in isolation, but the world doesn't work like that," she said.

Hand-eye coordination and other cognitive skills play a role in Dynavision, a program that requires participants to react quickly to flashing lights by touching them as they appear. The rapid-fire motion helps hand-eye coordination, said occupational therapy assistant Barb Arrington, but it also works on memory and sequencing.

Sgt. Justin Crosby of Louisville was injured in 2006 at Fort Hood, Texas, while assisting at a scene where an Apache helicopter crashed. He fell while rappelling. Crosby has been receiving treatment at Fort Knox for about 18 months.

He said the clinic staff understands the injury and the importance of being close to home, and he said his care at Fort Knox is better than what he received at Fort Hood, as well as at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

"They're way ahead of the game here," Crosby said.