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Community Lift Spirits of TBI Patients

The 10 traumatic brain injury clients currently residing at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center in an assisted living pilot program are getting into the holiday spirit as Christmas and New Year's rapidly approaches.

The pilot program is for five years at the center, which is at the Hiram G. Andrews Center in Upper Yoder Township. The brain injury center is operated under a Department of Defense contract.

The clients have been receiving items from throughout the community to make their holidays brighter, said Troy Van Scoyoc, the center's chief operating officer and acting director.

He said items such as greeting cards, books, games, sweatshirts, sweatpants, baseball or tassel caps, DVD movies and gift cards are among items the clients appreciate.

The program is completing its first year.

It has 10 intensive therapy beds for active duty members and veterans who are in need of extended neuro-rehabilitation.

There are three respite beds for families. Another six beds are at a community re-entry house in Moxham for those about to return to their communities.

"We're excited about the foundation we built in our first year and are looking forward to our program growing in 2010," Van Scoyoc said.

He said the center held an open house last week to give the community an opportunity to see what is being done to help and support servicemen and women with traumatic brain injury.

Technology provided by the University of Pittsburgh is leveraged into all aspects of care, Van Scoyoc noted.

In addition to physical, occupational and speech therapy, there is recreation therapy, therapeutic horseback riding, adaptive sports, horticulture, yoga, tai chi, pet therapy, a multisensory room, pre-vocational rehabilitation and individual, group and family counseling.

Returning to the holiday season, among those providing items for the center are the local Red Cross, which has given flat-screen televisions for all the rooms and IPods for the clients. Intertech Security in Richland Township has donated fire safety bed shakers. Geistown-Richland American Legion contributed $3,000 the center will use for client/family support.

"The community has been tremendously supportive," said Van Scoyoc.

That support goes both ways. The center is collecting for the Toys for Tots Campaign. It is gathering donations for the St. Vincent De Paul Society's Food Pantry. It has adopted a family through the Somerset County Military Family Support Group.

"We want to give back to the community for its gracious support of our program," Van Scoyoc said.

Tony Costango of Millsboro, Del., a 56-year-old Army veteran, came to the brain injury center in August. He received a brain injury in November 2002 while preparing for a deer hunting trip. His four-wheel-drive vehicle became stuck in mud and while attempting to dislodge it with the help of another, a steel hook became dislodged, striking him in the face, knocking his right eye behind his brain, Costango said.

Just about every facial bone was broken. He suffered a massive stroke while undergoing initial treatment. The stroke has left him with no feeling on his left side. He has been in and out of various Veterans Administration hospitals since, unable to walk except for extreme short distances. Upon coming to the brain injury center, he said his progress has been phenomenal.

"When I came here, I couldn't walk 50 feet. When I walked 800 feet after coming here, I knew I was in the right place," Costango said.

"My goal is to walk free of a crutch or a cane and be able to hold my grandchildren in my arms," he said.

Constango's fourth grandchild was born Wednesday.

"They (center staff) are the elite of therapy," he said.

"They care. I've seen miracles here."

To send greetings

Here is the address for those wishing to send cards and other items for the holidays to clients at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center:

109 Sunray Drive
Johnstown, Pa. 15905



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