WASHINGTON - Nearly half the amputees at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center want to emulate four-star Army Gens. Eric Shinseki and Frederick Franks and return to active duty.
About half of them succeed, according to Lt. Col. Paul Pasquina, the medical director of the hospital's amputee program. The severity of injuries is a factor. But people who work in rehab at Walter Reed say that at almost every level of possible recovery, character matters more.
What makes the winners special?
"They're athletes who listened to their coaches." - Capt. Matt Scherer, chief of physical therapy.
"They're very competitive people. They come in and look for another soldier with a similar injury who's doing great. They target him and try to reach his level of functioning. Then they try to surpass it." - Chaplain Darrick Gutting.
"They're perfectionists in whatever they do. We have mirrors on the walls to help soldiers accept their disability. But the perfectionists use the mirrors for help with their gaits so they can walk just like they did before, run just like they ran before." - Harvey Naranjo, unit leader in occupational therapy.
"Age, education and rank don't matter. The winners tend to be people who've dealt with adversity in the past. If bad things happened in your life before and you got through it, you're not surprised when bad things happen again _ plus you know you're a survivor." - Lt. Col. Melissa Jones, coordinator, occupational therapy research.
"They're amazingly tolerant of pain. I see skin abrasions, bruising, even blood sometimes. That's the reason athletes do so well here. They've learned how to deal with pain. They know they grow through it. That said, not much really happens until a guy succeeds at something he didn't think he could do. That's the big moment. That's when you see how far they want to take it. Usually the best predictor is what kind of people they were before they got hurt." - Eric Desarme, prosthetist.