Army National Guardsman Find Relief in OVMC Vestibular Rehabilitation Program

Monday, June 22, 2009

WHEELING--It was a hot July day in 2006, typical Summer weather in Iraq. Captain Dante Lawrence of the Army National Guard's 2nd Brigade, 28th Infantry Division out of Washington, PA was on a routine reconnaissance patrol when his convoy was ambushed by a small group of insurgents. They were attacked with small arms fire and an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

Although Lawrence was wearing a helmet at the time of the attack, his head struck the inside of the vehicle in which he was travelling. At the time, he showed no visible signs of injury and his primary concern was for other members of his group who were more acutely injured.

\"The bomb was built into the curb of the road,\" Lawrence, a Weirton native who is currently residing in Wheeling, explained.

It was not until later that Lawrence realized he might have been more seriously injured than originally thought. He continued to suffer from severe headaches, dizziness, vertigo and blurred vision. After months of exhausting testing, he was finally diagnosed at the end of 2007 with Post-Concussion Syndrome or an internal injury of the brain.

\"I knew there was something wrong. I couldn't even sit up without experiencing severe dizziness,\" he said. \"Any movement of my head caused my vision to blur and my head to spin.\"

The injury made his work with the National Guard virtually impossible as he was unable to fire a gun or complete the rigorous physical activities associated with his job. After receiving a Temporary Physical Profile (TPP) from the military and beginning treatment through the V.A., he requested a return to the Ohio Valley to be with his wife, a medical student at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg.

\"The V.A. approved local treatment for me,\" he explained. \"I met with my therapist for the first time in February of 2009.\"

As luck would have it, Lawrence's therapist was Tom McFadden, a certified physical therapist at Ohio Valley Medical Center who specializes in Vestibular Rehabilitation.

\"Vestibular Rehabilitation is a custom-designed therapy program for individuals with dizziness/vertigo and balance impairments,\" McFadden explained. \"The program was a perfect fit for Mr. Lawrence because of the symptoms he was exhibiting.\"

At the time that he began treatment, Lawrence could not sit up in bed without exhibiting symptoms. He could not focus or move his head without experiencing dizziness. He had difficulty in balancing without assistance. Jogging, a favorite form of physical activity for him, was completely out of the question.

\"We started him on a serious of specific exercises to alleviate his symptoms,\" McFadden said. \"His ultimate goal was to be able to return to his unit and I felt confident that we could achieve that.\"

Lawrence's treatment went extremely well. So well, in fact, that the V.A. approved additional visits for him with McFadden. He continued to improve, was recently released from his T.P.P. and will be able to return to his National Guard unit.

Perhaps the greatest testimony to his improvement occurred on Memorial Day weekend this year when he completed the Ogden 20K Classic in Wheeling.

\"A year ago, I would have tripped running down the street,\" Lawrence said. \"To be where I am now, compared to where I was when I started therapy, is simply amazing to me.\"