In the fall of 2002, Dr. Barb Springer arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (now known as “Walter Reed National Military Medical Center”), not knowing what to expect. No one did. No one knew the number of casualties our Nation would endure or how extensive and complex the combat wounds would be, once the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
Thankfully, Walter Reed had a talented and prepared Physical Therapy Team. Colonel Barb Springer was in the triage room when the first busload of wounded arrived from Andrews Air Force Base, in March 2003. Night after night, more casualties arrived. They arrived suffering from extensive poly-trauma caused by combat, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG’s), and improvised explosive devices (IED’s). The enemy’s weapons kept getting larger and more powerful therefore our service members’ injuries were more traumatic and debilitating. Dr. Springer and the Physical Therapy Team spent the majority of their time treating those that sustained post-traumatic stress (PTS), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), amputations, multiple fractures, spinal cord injuries, vision and hearing loss, open wounds, and nerve damage, among other injuries.
The Physical Therapy Team worked diligently seven days a week alongside their brothers and sisters in Occupational Therapy, Orthopedics, Physiatry, Nursing, Mental Health, Social Work, and many others to provide tens of thousands of wounded service members with the best rehabilitation possible. It was an experience that Dr. Springer will never forget. She explains, “I am very grateful and humbled that I had the opportunity to work with such compassionate and talented health care providers to help so many of our nations’ heroes whose lives were changed dramatically.”
Colonel Springer witnessed her patients transition from a person suffering from the devastating events that brought them to Walter Reed to their new normal. “It prepared me well to take on a new challenge in my post-military career at the Quality of Life Plus Program (QL+).” Dr. Springer added, “In my role at QL+, I get to work with the wounded, many of whom I treated at Walter Reed, along with a dedicated staff and talented engineering students to take on their challenges. Sometimes in a small way and sometimes in a big way, but always in a way that makes the quality of their lives improve.” The QL+ Mission fits perfectly with what she believes is paramount: helping our wounded, ill and injured heroes lead a better quality of life as productive citizens.