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Service Above Self
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ATLANTA - Shepherd Center in Buckhead is one of the only private hospitals in the country to develop a dedicated and separate military patient program.
It’s called the SHARE Initiative.
SHARE is an acronym for Shaping Hope And Recovery Excellence. This unique Shepherd Center program is helping military veterans who are trying to make the transition back to civilian life while dealing with physical, psychological, and emotional wounds from combat.
“Iraq, Spain, Afghanistan,” said Jonathan Mayberry.
Occupational therapy is part of the routine at Shepherd Center for retired Army Sergeant Jonathan Mayberry and retired Marine Lance Corporal Mason Blankenship. They look healthy now, but both were severely injured in combat—Blankenship in Afghanistan, and Mayberry in Iraq.
“I took shrapnel to the side of the face and a pretty bad concussion. And then two days later I was hit in the back of the head by an IED with shrapnel and took a concussion and took a pretty bad back injury from that,” said Jonathan Mayberry, US Army, retired.
“We sustained a pretty big blast to the side of our truck and I was knocked unconscious. I didn’t think I had an injury at the time, I just thought I got knocked out,” said Mason Blankenship, USMC, retired.
But both men suffered significant injuries that have become common among soldiers returning from combat.
“A lot of them have had multiple blast injury exposures. In addition to that they’ve been in some very difficult situations so you have a combination of multiple mild traumatic brain injuries and the cumulative effects of that, as well as the possibility of post traumatic stress disorder coming on as well,” said Dr. Andrew Dennison of the Shepherd Center.
“Came back and emotional problems started getting to me, PTSD, and the TBI and cognitive, not remembering, just small things and then they grew into bigger problems,” said Mayberry.
“I started getting night terrors, couldn’t concentrate. Couldn’t really do my job. So I started trying to get help for that and it just kept getting worse and worse,” said Blankenship.
From activities to improve their visual field to the opportunity to swim in the big tank at the Georgia Aquarium, both men are now finding the help they need through the SHARE military initiative at Shepherd Center, an especially designed one-stop shop program for their complex injuries, that provides doctors, therapists, and psychologists all under one roof.
“I’ve been going through speech therapy. I’ve been going through cognitive therapy. Exposure therapy, like going out to the community going grocery shopping in crowds—teaching us the tools so we can live life outside of here,” said Mayberry.
“Really it has turned me around. I’ve noticed myself starting to laugh again, starting to feel other emotions other than anger. You can get help. You can change, and that’s what I’ve accomplished here,” said Blankenship.
“It’s kind of like peeling layers off an onion, as you keep on managing one of the problems, there is another problem underneath, l but if you keep hacking away at it, a lot of these guys are doing spectacularly better by the time they leave,” said Dennison.
And one of the added benefits is the Bridge program, which provides a case manager that follows the veteran for up to a year and a half or more after they leave.
In three years, the SHARE Initiative has helped 317 US service men and women.