There really aren’t any rules to what type of therapy to give to someone after a traumatic event. There are certainly physical needs that will have to be met, and the patient will need to learn how to deal with any mobility issues that they may have developed. But the mental traumas that come along with surviving a life-threatening situation are much more difficult to predict. No two patients will respond to the same type of therapeutic treatments, so it really comes down to trial and error. There are very few places in the country that understand what is involved with helping people deal with violent physical and mental trauma inflicted on them more than places like the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.
One of the more novel ways that the Florida veterans’ hospital has found to work with some of their patients is using their on-site 3D printer. Not only have they found success using it to 3D print prosthetic limbs for some of their veterans, but they have discovered that for some of their patients, it has some unexpected therapeutic effects. It offers recovering vets something to focus on other than dealing with their new disabilities, and it often sparks their creativity and allows them to find innovative ways to help themselves.
“The idea behind having 3D printing is it allows them to continue to be creative, to continue to process and do things and build things in a more structured way,” explained Jamie Kaplan, a recreational therapist with the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.
After surviving his tour of duty in the Navy, and even more time spent in Kuwait as a civilian contractor, it was an unexpected danger back home that cost Laquan “Quan” Taylor his mobility. The 28-year-old was driving the car that he had scrimped and saved for all throughout his military service to his local supermarket in Atlanta when some thieves took a liking to his bright orange Camaro on January 14, 2015. But the car evidently wasn’t enough for his attackers, as they pulled out weapons and gunned him down, seemingly without mercy. Taylor was shot more than eleven times, and the horrific attack nearly cost him his life, and left him paralyzed from the waist down.
“The guy said give me the keys to your car and the money you just put in your pocket,” Taylor recalled. “I threw him everything and started running. The guy that was with him told him to shoot me. He comes over the top of me, and as I turn I flip over on my back and he shot me all in my stomach and in my chest. I got shot 11 to 14 times,” Taylor told Bay News 9.
Taylor’s road to recovery has been a long and grueling one. He’s currently on medical leave from his job without pay, and will still require several more surgeries. But he’s found a lot of comfort in the 3D printer at the Haley Veterans’ Hospital, and it has been playing an important role in his therapy. He’s already used it to 3D print himself an adapted cell phone holder for his wheelchair, and he even has plans to use it to help some of his fellow vets. Taylor’s next project will be designing adaptive Playstation controllers for some the patients at the hospital who are unable to use their hands.
One of his most meaningful projects was using the 3D printer to confront the violence that caused his paralysis. Taylor asked for the hospital staff’s help in recreating the bullet that put him in a wheelchair. He 3D printed a replica of that bullet and decided to wear it around his neck, as a reminder both of what happened and of the importance of continuing to move forward. It is exactly these sorts of unforeseen therapeutic treatments that the hospital was hoping 3D printing would produce, and they want to help even more veterans using the technology.
“It makes you want to create things. It makes you want to use your mind. Often times being injured you shut down, and you don’t want to use your mind. You want to ball up and curl up. This makes you want to explore different opportunities,” explained Taylor.
There is a GoFundMe set up to help Taylor deal with his continuing medical bills and the ongoing cost of his recovery, so if you have a few dollars to spare it would be going to a good cost. And you can also help Taylor and veterans like him by supporting the two US veteran charities that provided the funds that Haley Veterans’ Hospital used to set up the 3D printer, the TAMCO Foundation and the Injured Warriors Foundation of Florida.
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