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Intrepid Spirit Center brings hope to traumatic brain injury patients

Mr. Arnold Fisher, the honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, middle right, cuts the ribbon to officially open the Intrepid Spirit Center on Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 4, 2018. The Intrepid Spirt Center will work together with Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton to treat traumatic brain, physical and psychological injuries. This location is one of nine centers being opened nationwide. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Betzabeth Y. Galvan)

Story by Cpl. Dylan Chagnon 

Marine Corps Installations West – Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, in conjunction with Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, opened an Intrepid Spirit Center on Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 4, 2018.

Intrepid Spirit Centers are built nationwide to treat traumatic brain injuries and psychological conditions affecting service members.

With over 45,000 Marines and Sailors, Camp Pendleton supports military operations on a global scale, making it a prime location to have such a resource operating on the installation.

“This [Camp Pendleton] is really the epicenter of operational forces in the region,” said Cmdr. Paul Sargent, Department Head of the Intrepid Spirit Center – Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. “We’ve had referrals from [Naval Base Coronado], special operations units, and others from the region who can get access to care more readily because of the special services we provide.”

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes fund has a profound history of treating service members by instilling in them hope and comfort while dealing with their conditions.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Steve Taylor shared how the organization impacted his life when he was struck by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010.

“Right away coming home, my family started noticing issues with my behavior. Simple tasks, like tying my boots, suddenly became a daily challenge,” said Taylor, afterwards, jokingly putting blame on him reaching the age of 40.

However, as time passed and his symptoms worsened to memory loss and excruciating migraines it became evident that aging was not the issue.

In 2012, Taylor underwent an MRI and was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.

“I wasn’t the same person I was before I left; everyone could see it but me,” said Taylor, attempting to avoid drowning in his words. “I was in a leadership position having to make critical decisions, but I couldn’t even remember if it was Tuesday or Wednesday, or what grade my son was in. I began struggling everyday to mask these symptoms that were consuming every aspect of my daily life.”

As his condition kept worsening day by day, he faced an ultimatum from his family: Get help or get out.

“At this point I had to ask myself, ‘what’s more important, my career or my health?’” he said.

Shortly afterwards, Taylor, with the support of his family and chain of command, checked into the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

“The medical treatment was like nothing I ever experienced,” he said. “I received the most comprehensive medical evaluation of my life; I estimate it to be 10 years worth of treatment in the short four weeks I was there.”

After a four-week period of complex psychological and therapeutic treatment, Taylor found himself with a renewed spirit and a well-developed recovery plan, which he still undergoes to this day.

His inspiring story is only one of many by service members like him who have undergone treatment at an Intrepid Spirit Center. According to Taylor, researchers with Intrepid report a 92% success rate with patients seeking treatment with the organization.

With the opening of the Camp Pendleton center, the staff has one priority in mind: The mental health of service members.

“When I’ve seen stellar careers end prematurely, it’s usually because of a behavioral health or brain health issue,” said Sargent. “If I can help keep Marines brains healthy, then they’re going to make better decisions, and they’re going to be better Marines.”

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