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NMCSD Restores Aesthetics To Injured Service Members

3/3/2009 - News Courtesy of: Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Jake Berenguer 

SAN DIEGO – Navy Medicine provides significant treatment to injured combatants not only through first response in theater, but also through a continuum of care starting with the transition back to the United States and throughout the recovery process.

Project Comprehensive Aesthetic Recovery Effort (Project C.A.R.E.) is a multi-disciplinary patient care initiative to help restore function and appearance of traumatically injured service members.

"Lack of proper function or the emotional repercussions of a patient with the scars of a severe injury needed to be addressed," said Cmdr. (Dr.) Craig Salt, department head of plastic surgery at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD). Salt is spearheading Project C.A.R.E. project to improve aesthetic appearance of combat injuries to those who have given so much in the line of duty.

"Patients often have a hard time coping with the stares of strangers or even looking at their own reflection. I decided to be proactive and seek them out to let them know what options were available to them. I wanted to fix what can be fixed and help them with their appearance post injury," said Salt.

Project C.A.R.E. consolidates resources throughout NMCSD to address a patient's needs through multiple medical disciplines. Utilizing a team approach to medical and supportive services, each patient is individually evaluated and a comprehensive treatment plan is formulated.

"I wanted to work in tandem with anyone who could be beneficial to the recovery of the patients. I am seeking out contributions of emotional support from chaplains, or the talents of dermatologists and neurosurgeons. This needs to be a collective effort to restore form, function and esteem," said Salt.

"He has helped me out so much, he is making a huge difference in people's lives," said Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony Guerrero, one of Salt's patients. Guerrero was injured in an explosion Sept. 9, 2006 while serving in Iraq and received serious facial injuries.

Salt replaced missing bone in Guerrero's face with an artificial structure to fill an indention. Laser surgery removed the powder burns from the explosion to lessen the visibility of the scars.

"After the blast, I didn't look like myself. Since beginning the surgical reconstruction, I feel so much better about myself. I can definitely see a huge improvement and look more like I used to," said Guerrero.
Salt hopes Project C.A.R.E. will continue to grow through proper promotion and coordination efforts throughout the military branches.

"Project C.A.R.E. will do so much more than what was considered the end of a patient's treatment. We have helped a small handful of patients so far and after pitching the idea to several other military hospitals, the potential for growth is immense. We want to help each service member identify their needs and work as a team to restore their form, function and self image," said Salt.

For more information about Project C.A.R.E. visit: Project C.A.R.E.

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