A New Perspective
Years after sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while serving in the United States Marine Corps, Bob Suter attended Shepherd Center's SHARE Military Initiative. He found it made a big difference in his life.
Bob Suter, a nurse, avid reader, and dog trainer, served in the United States Marine Corps from 2001 until 2009, including three tours in Iraq. Following his service, he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Bob has experienced symptoms from the brain injury for years, especially vision and balance issues, but he did his best to ignore them. He also struggled with PTSD, which made him feel on edge and angry, what he calls “white knuckling life.”
“My body is constantly sending the signal — alert, alert, alert — and that's all you get, that’s all you feel,” he explains.
Then, after a hip injury and bouts with COVID, his symptoms started worsening.
“I couldn't balance on stairs, and at the same time, I was unable to control my emotions.
I would just start crying,” he recalls, “and the folks at SHARE told me this is not uncommon — ignored passing out, ignored balance issues, ignored headaches, ignored all that, but the moment that I couldn't stop crying, I was like, oh, something is really wrong with me. I don't cry.”
Bob attended SHARE in 2022 and says it was a reality check that has made a big difference in his life.
“One of my struggles is recognizing that I am not superhuman and can't always push through and do whatever I want. And SHARE helped me change my perspective. I've slowed down.”
Physical and occupational therapy sessions helped Bob work on his vision and balance issues. And he credits a simple office procedure called a sphenopalatine block, in which a local anesthetic is delivered through the nasal passages to block a cluster of nerves behind the face, with making his PTSD symptoms more manageable. With fewer PTSD symptoms he was able to put other tools he learned at SHARE into practice.
Knowing others have had similar experiences also helped.
“Before you go to SHARE, it feels like you're the only person on earth dealing with these issues, and you often hear that you're making it up, that you're being ridiculous,” Bob says. “And then you go there, and all these other people are dealing with the exact same things, and they relate.
They're telling their story, but it's yours. That's my story right there, coming out of someone else's mouth.”
Bob also felt the SHARE team understood him.
“There’s something about the entire staff at SHARE,” Bob says. “They give you that feeling of, ‘yeah, we know, it's real’ — and they know exactly what they need to do to make it better. They have a gift.”
Written by Ruth Underwood
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.