COLUMBUS, Ohio — During the war in Afghanistan, military advancements provided unprecedented protection for service members in harm’s way. And although this has drastically improved survival for those injured in combat, it has also resulted in an increase in amputations and veterans living with debilitating injuries and disabilities. Now, a new program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is honoring these veterans by using innovation and medical research to improve their lives.
“No injury is the same, so we have to think creatively to come up with solutions that will work for each patient, and that’s how we continue to expand our capabilities,” said Dr. Jason Souza, director of the Orthoplastic Reconstruction Program and associate professor in plastic and orthopedic surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “We look at what tissue we have to work with, how we can leverage technology to fill some of the gaps and how to think beyond just putting back what’s been lost to restore function.”
The Military Medicine Program is already having a major impact for veterans like Nick Vogt, who lost both legs after an IED exploded while he was leading his platoon in Afghanistan in 2011. Even after recovering, daily life was extremely difficult and he was unable to sit upright for more than a few minutes at a time. Finally, he found Souza, who performed a 12-hour surgery that changed his life and allowed him to be more engaged with his wife and two children every day.
“For years I couldn’t even enjoy a meal with my family without having to lay on my side because there was just skin on bone under my pelvis, which easily degrades and is very painful,” Vogt said. “Dr. Souza was able to take a flap of my skin from my back — and also layers of fat and the vessels underneath, which is critical — and put that where I needed the padding.”
Surgeons with the Military Medicine Program are also making advancements to address nerve pain through reconstruction and rewiringt and pioneering a procedure to improve prosthetics by anchoring them into the bone rather than bearing weight on a socket. Both of these are common issues for combat-wounded veterans, and these solutions are reducing chronic pain, increasing mobility and improving lives.
“I knew early on in my career that I wanted to dedicate my research and skills to helping those who served in the military,” said Dr. Amy Moore, renowned peripheral nerve surgeon and chair of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at The Wexner Medical Center. “There’s more to living than just being alive, and with this Military Medicine Program we are really focused on helping veterans thrive. To be able to give back to these amazing men and women who are in pain or are living with an injury, there’s no words to express what that means to me other than to say that it’s an honor.”