Brain injuries — whether they are caused by an explosion in military combat, a vehicle accident or a fall — are often accompanied by chronic pain, long-term injuries or behavioral health conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder. These combinations of ailments make patients more complex and more difficult to treat through the conventional health care system.
To better serve the men and women who have suffered traumatic brain injuries while serving our country, Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma launched the Madigan Intrepid Spirit Transitions (MIST) program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). The program is a six-week intensive outpatient group designed to treat the whole patient on the road to recovery.
The program hosts between eight and 12 service members at a time, and while patients address chronic pain, insomnia and work to improve cognitive skills, they also learn mindfulness and strategies to nurture relationships and build spiritual resiliency. It turns art studios, yoga mats and nature into its classroom.
Every man and woman who comes through the program is unique, so the MIST program uses a variety of approaches and lets participants pick the methods they believe will be most beneficial to them. Recovering from a traumatic brain injury is an ongoing process, and while the six-week course may not be enough to allow participants to leave fully healed, it does expose them to the programs on the base and the resources, tools, information and ideas that can continue to be beneficial long after the course has ended.
So far, the program has graduated two groups and seen promising success. One participant’s medical evaluation board was halted because of how much his behavioral health had improved, and another was able to reverse the downward trajectory of his marriage.