Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Walter Reed

So last week I volunteered for the first time at the Walter Reed hospital. A little lesson for you:

Location: Washington, DC.
Warrior Transition Unit population: 598
Walter Reed Army Medical Center, DC, is the Army's flagship medical center. It serves more than 150,000 active and retired military members from all services and their families. Walter Reed is not only a focal point for care of wounded warriors, it also has a medical research center and medical student, intern and resident instructional programs. Its 113 acres are scheduled for other use when the current installation consolidates with the Bethesda Naval Hospital to form the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in 2011.

I volunteered with an non-profit called CAUSE in which I helped with their Message and Reike night. I helped man the sign up sheet and drum up some business to fill the empty slots. But it was awesome to see and talk to the Soldiers/Marines and their families. It was amazing to see how well some of them were doing after hearing they had only been there for a short time. I saw all kinds of physical injuries: wheelchairs, amputees (hands, legs, feets, arms), eye patches, burns, braces, the whole gambit; along with many many more non-physical injuries such as PTSD and severe depression. But the only thing that stuck out to me was their positive attitudes and smiles. Kind of makes you re-evaluate your life problems, no?

But you might be thinking....Marines and Soldiers and messages and yoga don't mix...well it does. According to their website: "The military is using massage, Reiki, yoga and other complementary and alternative modalities to ease combat stress and the effects of PTSD. The demand for these modalities far exceeds the current military capacity. Cause programs are helping to meet this critical need; the participating practitioners and instructors meet all relevant state credentialing requirements and have attended workshops addressing the special needs of military wounded." Ha, it was funny watching some of their faces when we came up and asked them if they wanted to get a message. It was like we had asked them to eat something gross. Well, take that back...they probably would have had a better reaction to that ;) Think of if you asked a little girl to touch a worm...yeah, THAT face! The EEEEEEEWWWWWWW face.

They also have a DVD Entertainment Library (kind of a mock Blockbuster) where the Soldiers/Marines can rent DVDs or video games for some entertainment. From what I gather there's not much to do around the base and things can get boring for the ones who don't have any family around. "Apparently in addition to being popular entertainment, video games also have therapeutic value. Recent studies have shown that playing video games can activate the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce heightened tension related to stress. There is even research showing that playing Tetris, a puzzle video game, may reduce PTSD flashbacks." Interesting. If you'd like to donate, you can support the library with a donation or by sending DVDs or video games to Cause at 6315 Bren Mar Drive, Suite 175, Alexandria, VA, 22312.

I look forward to volunteering again. I can't really explain why I want to volunteer here but let's just leave it at that I'm building future Karma.

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