Public-private collaboration a win-win for wounded

Updated: Thursday, 22 Dec 2011, 7:14 PM CST
Published : Thursday, 22 Dec 2011, 5:17 PM CST

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) - The Pentagon says 360,000 veterans suffer brain injuries. As many as 90,000 of them may require long-term, specialized care. But it is not practical for the Veterans Administration to establish so many specialized clinics around the country.

So the VA has begun a 2 1/2-year pilot program, contracting with private clinics to provide such care. The CORE Health Clinic in Dripping Springs is one of some two dozen clinics to be involved.

There, former Coast Guardsman Shaun Goff is receiving such treatment. He was nearly killed 14 months ago in a head-on collision.

His wife, Jenny Goff, recalled the incident.

"It was a horrible night because they said he wasn't going to make it, I should prepare," she said.

Seven weeks later Shaun Goff slowly came out of his coma and went on to have several major surgeries. Now he has begun his long, slow rehabilitation. He is yet unable to talk.

Jenny Goff said she has a mixture of emotions.

"It's hard to see your spouse or loved one in a different state when you knew they were totally opposite what they are now," she said. "But then it's nice to see the progress."

The president of CORE Health Care, Dr. Jim Misko explained.

"The number of veterans getting brain injuries is phenomenal, unfortunately," Misko said, "so in their wisdom the VA did something unusual, creating a private-public partnership and have contracted a small number of facilities across the country."

The reason for the soaring number of brain traumas? Modern body armor can protect from the neck down, but the concussive nature of the enemies' explosives can still impact the head. In Shaun Goff's case he now faces long rehab, which includes physical, cognitive, emotional and speech therapies.

"This kind of rehab can do a lot for him, we expect to see a great deal of recovery," Misko said.

He added it will be six to 12 months before Shaun Goff can consider going home to enter the real world.

Jenny Goff can't wait for the day she and her husband can have a conversation again.

"I don't have the words to describe it," she said. "I know I can't wait and he's just stuck inside having so much to say. I can't wait and I'm sure the kids can't wait."

Son Ethan, 7, and daughter Riley, 4, visit their dad but it's tough for them to understand.

"The better he goes with progress is when they start getting more ... 'Oh, it's daddy,'" Jenny Goff said.