Paralyzed Marine Vet And Occupational Therapist Create Nation’s First Driving Rehabilitation Program

Paralyzed Marine Vet And Occupational Therapist Create Nation’s First Driving Rehabilitation Program

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The term “Semper Fi” or “Semper Fidelis” is a Latin phrase meaning “always faithful”. It’s the motto that every Marine recruit comes to know the moment he or she enters boot camp. The phrase reflects a collective and eternal commitment to succeed, whether on the battlefield or later in life.

Josh Himan studied finance at Radford University. After graduation, the young patriot felt a calling to serve his country by joining the Marine Corps.

Soon after enlisting in the elite branch, Himan was deployed to Afghanistan where he served his tour of duty without any major instances. That is, until the final month of his deployment before he was scheduled to come home.

With less then 30 days left in Afghanistan, Himan’s luck ran out in 2009, when his vehicle struck an IED. Luckily, his life was spared, but the accident left him permanently paralyzed.

Himan was severely injured and went home a quadriplegic, meaning he was paralyzed from the chest down. His recovery and rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, took years, but he slowly learned how to navigate his new life. Eventually, he reached a point where he longed for the freedom of being able to drive.

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While at Walter Reed Hospital, Himan met Occupational Therapist Tammy Phipps. The two quickly developed a friendship, driven by a desire to help wounded warriors to become a vital part of society once again.

During my time in the hospital, you know, one of their things was, what can I do back in society again?” Himan told Fox News. “They told me that I had the ability to drive…but the problem was trying to put the whole package together.”

Himan said he recalled thinking, “OK, so I have the capability of driving. But how do I find the type of vehicle? How do I know about all the things that are available for people with my disability to drive?”

Even more distressing was the mounds of paperwork provided by the Veteran Affairs that actually complicated the process further.

That’s when Himan decided to reach out to his fried Phipps. “She was the only one to not just tell me I could drive again,” he said. “The difference was she got me actually driving back on the road. She helped me with the paperwork.”

At the time, Phipps had developed the first and only driver rehab program in the Department of Defense. She recalls getting multiple calls from veterans that had just transitioned into veteran status across the nation and needed help, but didn’t have the right customized vehicle or the resources to find one.

The problem she ran into was that Phipps was one of a “very small niche” of occupational therapists that do driving rehabilitation. In fact, “There are only around 400 nationally, and that number gets smaller and smaller, the more complex the cases become,” she said.

That’s when the duo decided to go into business together and create the nation’s first driving rehabilitation program called “Driver Rehabilitation Center of Excellence” (DRCE), directly aiding veterans and wounded warriors to get back on the road. The blueprint had already been established using the same program Phipps had developed for the Department of Defense.

Located in Fairfax County, Virginia, the DRCE staff members evaluate each person who reaches out for help so they can find and install the best equipment for them to get back to a life with more mobility and freedom. Each driver stays in the program until they feel comfortable getting back on the road.