Free Caregivers Conference this week

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed a harsh spotlight on the term polytrauma – more than one injury – a problem all too common for returning veterans.

Lee and Bob Woodruff (photo courtesy of People Magazine).

This critical issue will be the focus of the Second Annual Pathways to Resilience Caregivers Conference this Thursday, March 10th, at the University of South Florida Tampa campus. The keynote speaker is Lee Woodruff, wife of ABC News anchor and reporter Bob Woodruff..

This special daylong event is free, open to the public and focuses on the needs of family members and caregivers who are involved in the lives of veterans with polytrauma. It will be held at USF’s Marshall Student Center from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Lee Woodruff’s speech takes place at 11 a.m.)

While pre-registration has closed, you can still attend. On site registration is available at the Ballroom entrance on the second floor of the Marshall Center.

Bob Woodruff with his daughter Cathryn (left) and son Mack two days after he woke from a coma. Photo courtesy of the Woodruff Family.

Bob Woodruff sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI, when the vehicle he was traveling in was blown up by a roadside bomb while he was on assignment in Iraq in 2006. Together the Woodruffs founded, a non-profit organization that helps wounded service members.  Lee has become a national advocate and travels around the country raising awareness of traumatic brain injury and the sacrifices of service members and their families. She and her husband co-wrote the best-selling book, In An Instant, about their family’s journey to recovery.  She will sign copies of her new book, Perfectly Imperfect, at the event. (The book signing is around 12 noon during lunch).

There will be various breakout sessions and special presentations including, “Family Caregivers” by Dr. Steven Scott who is from the James A Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa where he serves as the Medical Director of the Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Scott is also the Principal Investigator of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. In 2004, Dr. Scott was the recipient of the “Olin E. Teague Award”; it’s the highest honor for treating War-Related Injuries in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  He also received the “National Commander’s Outstanding VA Employee Award” from the Disabled American Veterans in 2007.

Dr. Linda Mona will give a talk about  “Dealing with Sexuality & Intimacy Issues.” Dr. Mona is a licensed clinical psychologist who has advocated for the sexual rights and sexual expression of people with disabilities for the past 15 years.

In addition, Father David Czartorynski will speak in a session titled “Resiliency through Faith & Spirituality.” Czartorynski is the acting chief of the Chaplain Service at the James A. Haley VA Hospital (JAHVA) in Tampa.  He specializes in pastoral care to spinal cord injury patients and polytrauma.

And Shealyn Holt, who is the Family Caregiver Coordinator at the Washington, D.C. office of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, will talk about  “Caregiver Resources.” Holt conducts research on traumatic brain injury and advocates for patient and family education and support.

The day concludes with a CPR training session provided by the USF chapter of the American Red Cross.

I am personally thrilled to be helping to organize this event and am proud of my husband, USAF SMSgt Rex Temple who is volunteering his time as the emcee for the event.  Rex is stationed at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, but he recently spent a year on deployment in Afghanistan where he was embedded with the Afghan National Army. While there, he completed more than 180 combat missions and was awarded the Bronze Star.

We both believe that having one trauma is certainly bad enough, but polytrauma presents a particularly unique set of problems that require a multidisciplinary approach to treatment. But, polytrauma also creates a unique set of demands on those closest to the wounded veteran – compounded injuries, compounded need for care and for understanding. This conference will go a long way toward helping people start to get a handle on the associated issues.

Note: A version of this blog post was first written by me and Barbara Melendez for the website.


National advocate for wounded troops to speak in Tampa

Lee Woodruff is a rock star in the military community especially among those who have followed her husband Bob’s amazing journey to recovery after the convoy he was in was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006.  The ABC News co-anchor and reporter was on assignment in Taji, Iraq, about 12 miles north of Baghdad when he suffered severe head injuries and wounds to his upper body.

A national advocate for wounded servicemembers and their families, Lee will be in Tampa on March 10, 2011 to speak at a special conference for family and professional caregivers of polytrauma patients.

Lee Woodruff, author and co-founder of The Bob Woodruff Foundation and

Just a few weeks after my husband Rex returned from Afghanistan we got a call from the American Red Cross Tampa Bay Chapter asking if Rex could participate in this special conference. He immediately agreed and we’ve been helping out with organizing the conference ever since; Rex will serve as the event emcee. Now that event, the Second Annual Pathways to Resilience Caregivers Conference, is almost here offering various sessions and special presentations about intimacy, spirituality, coping and the reality of caregiving. The event is sponsored by the James A. Haley VA Hospital, the University of South Florida and the American Red Cross Tampa Bay chapter along with the very active American Red Cross student club at USF.

Lee co-wrote the best-selling book “In an Instant” with her husband Bob. This book is a compelling and at times quite funny description of her family’s journey to recovery. Along the way she and her husband started The Bob Woodruff Foundation (for more go to, a national nonprofit that helps ensure the nation’s injured servicemembers, veterans and their families return to a homefront ready to support them. One the organization’s key goals is to educate the public about the needs of injured service members, veterans and their families as they reintegrate into their communities. Lee speaks to groups nationwide to raise awareness of traumatic brain injury and the sacrifices of our military and their families. And her husband Bob is back to work at ABC News and frequently covers the military in his critically acclaimed series Woodruff Reports.

This daylong conference will be held at the Marshall Student Center ballroom at the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus on March 10, 2011. To sign up, please follow this link.

Why have the conference in Tampa? Because Tampa is home to the James A. Haley VA Hospital where some of the nation’s most severely wounded servicemembers come to seek treatment at the Tampa Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center. It’s one of just four specialty facilities designed to provide intensive rehabilitative care to veterans and servicemembers who experienced severe injuries (including brain injuries) to more than one organ system.

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. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) frequently occurs as part of the polytrauma spectrum in combination with other disabling conditions, such as amputations, burns, pain, fractures, auditory and visual impairments, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health conditions. When present, injury to the brain is often the impairment that dictates the course of rehabilitation due to the nature of the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral deficits related to TBI.

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