JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - When U.S. Army Sgt.
Nathan Martucci is asked if he hurt his leg, he has become
accustomed to nodding yes and walking away while holding his cane
for balance, but he doesn't have a leg injury.
U.S. Army Sgt. Nathan Martucci, originally from Mount Arlington,
N.J., is a Warrior Transition Unit soldier at Joint Force Base
McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, March 11, 2013. Martucci works to improve
multiple facets of his life with the help of the WTU's medical staff
after sustaining a traumatic brain injury during deployments to
Iraq. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Martucci shares his
experiences coping with brain injury in an effort to help raise
awareness across all branches of the military. (U.S. Army photo by
Sgt. Manda Walters, 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Martucci's injury isn't visible. It's on the inside. He
has a brain injury. A brain injury is caused by a blow or
jolt to the head or a penetrating injury that disrupts the
normal function of the brain.
The blows and jolts he
experienced came from exposure to more than 25 improvised
explosive devices that detonated near his tank while
conducting route clearance, presence patrol, cordon and
search and recovery missions in Iraq with the 3rd Armored
Cavalry Regiment of Fort Carson, Colo., in 2005, then again
with the 3rd Infantry Division of Fort Stewart, Ga., in
Martucci, a Warrior Transition Unit
soldier, and former tanker, is no longer able to drive to
WTU's Case Management building, or anywhere else on Joint
Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. He uses public transport.
“If I didn't have this,” said Martucci raising the cane
he holds in his right hand off the ground, then letting it
go to dangle from the cord that ties it to his belt loop,
“no one would say anything.”
The month of March has
been dedicated to the more than 260,000 military members who
have been documented as having varying degrees of brain
injury during the past decade.
are severe, his balance, vision, memory and speech are
Awareness of brain injury, also referred
to as TBI or traumatic brain injury, and its symptoms, can
help to identify possible injuries and expedite their
“The good news is because of the
awareness of both the noncommissioned officer and officer
corps, there is a lower threshold in people recommending
help and in people getting help,” said Dr. John Ragone, a
psychiatrist at the WTU for the past eight years. “When I
first started, there were not as many as there are now that
come and get help.”
Ragone is optimistic because he
has seen soldiers getting better, but as with any injury,
timely care and treatment is important.
someone gets help,” said Ragone. “The higher the likelihood
they will make a substantial improvement.”
military began implementing the Automated Nueropsychological
Assessment Metric, or ANAM, in 2008.
The ANAM, a
computer-based cognitive assessment, is a tool to aid in
early brain injury identification.
complete a battery of performance tasks that relate to
attention, memory, mental speed and accuracy. It takes
approximately 20 minutes and provides a cognitive baseline
for service members in areas of performance that are usually
affected after an injury to the brain.
gets a pre-deployment ANAM,” said Dr. Harini Kumar, a
physician at the WTU who specializes in traumatic brain
injury, and ANAM data interpretation. “If somebody has had
an event or exposure, or some kind of change they get
identified to do a post deployment ANAM.”
baseline could have helped to identify Martucci's brain
“I could have started treatment up to
three years earlier,” said Martucci. “The ANAM could have at
least established some sort of trail showing that I had
A change from the pre to the
post-test, doesn't always indicate brain injury.
a brain injury is identified, each person is unique. If a
service member is identified for care or treatment, an
individualized rehabilitation process can be initiated at
“It depends on the individual's need,” said
Kumar. “Somebody may need vestibule rehab for balance, some
may need speech, or occupational therapy to help with daily
living activities or improve memory.”
utilized several of these areas of rehabilitation throughout
the past seven weeks with the help of U.S. Army Lt. Col.
Carla Patton, a nurse and officer in charge of case
management at the WTU.
“Injury care and treatment is
a multifaceted issue that affects many areas of the whole
person,” said Patton.
Some of this individual rehab
is offered here at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst but
service members with multiple issues require a polytrauma
center like the facility at the Veterans Hospital in
Richmond, Va., Patton added.
Patton and the rest of
the medical team at the WTU are eager to get the word out
about brain injury awareness in order to help improve the
lives of military members like Martucci.
WTU hosted a
TBI opening ceremony Friday and is scheduled to have a TBI
resource table in the Exchange lobby March 13, 10 a.m – 2
p.m. followed by a lunch and learn titled "Concussions"
March 18, 12-1 p.m. at Building 5613, Room 2.
injury is not a show-stopper,” said Rigone. “Identifying a
critical situation in and out of theater and getting rapid
help is what protects people.”
Martucci said he
wishes all brain injured individuals were treated the same
and helped equally, not just those like him, whose injury is
apparent due to the presence of a cane.
suffer from brain injury often do not show any physical sign
of injury, but cognitive and emotional symptoms include:
irritability, depression, slower thinking, substance abuse,
aggression and impaired judgment.
leaders, like those in his command that got him help when he
needed it, are a critical first line of defense in
identifying triggering events such as blasts, accidents,
vehicle roll-over and blunt-force trauma that can lead to
Go to U.S. Army Public Health Command
website for more information or to access the U.S. Army
Soldier Leader Risk Reduction Tool, for help identifying
potential risks or critical events such as brain injury.
By Army Sgt. Manda Walters
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