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Gen. Austin attends ribbon-cutting for new JAHVH Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center

By By Staff Sgt. Liliana Moreno, U.S. Central Command

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TAMPA, Fla. - What had been a decades-long dream for the Tampa community finally became a reality for our wounded warriors and their families at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital (JAHVH).

After years of planning, months of construction, weeks of training, and countless hours of preparation, Tampa’s JAHVH opened its doors to the new Polytrauma and Rehabilitation Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 12.

Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, praised the new state-of-the-art facility that sports 56 private inpatient rooms, a therapeutic climbing wall and an aquatic center, amongst many other features, which will provide inter-disciplinary care to veteran and active-duty patients and their families.

“If you consider the incredible advancements that have been made by the medical community in terms of treatment methods, patient care, and particularly in the areas of battlefield trauma and behavioral health, it is, indeed extraordinary,” stated Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command during the ribbon cutting ceremony opening remarks.

Polytrauma is defined as two or more injuries sustained in the same incident that affect multiple body parts or organ systems and result in physical, cognitive, psychological or psychosocial impairments and functional disabilities.

According to Kathleen Fogarty, JAHVH Director, the center offers interactive therapy programs designed to address the individual needs and goals of each participant. The goal is to help them return to the most appropriate, less restrictive community setting, by targeting skills necessary to return home, school, work, or military service.

“It is nice to get up and walk when you haven’t been able to walk in the past few months,” said Army Veteran Josh Baker, who is a JAHVH patient.

Last year in November, Baker was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Although he can’t move his legs on his own, he stands and takes steps with the aid of an exoskeleton. A robotic suit attached to his torso, with a tubular assembly that runs down the outside of each leg. He is very happy with the improvements that he has been able to make, and thanks the team of healthcare professionals that have been with him through his journey.

The Tampa Polytrauma and Rehabilitation center is one of only five facilities in the country and the newest facility in the VA system of care to provide such a comprehensive level of care.

“Our polytrauma center really honors our veterans, our wounded ill and injured, and it will allow our world class staff to take rehabilitation to a whole new level,” said Dr. Edward Cutolo, Chief of Staff.

Other highlights of the polytrauma center include a treadmill therapy pool, a virtual reality simulation center and an outdoor recreational therapeutic activity space with a multi-surface mobility training area, a basketball court, putting green, and a horseshoe pit.

“Our ability to effectively evacuate troops who experience a traumatic injury, and to get them to a place where they’re able to receive appropriate medical care within that golden hour, significantly improves their chances of survival,” said Austin. “And so, keeping our troops alive is absolutely critical, but rehabilitating them to the point where they’re able to live productive and fulfilling lives is just as important, and that’s really what this state-of-the-art facility is all about.”