CPT Matthew Anderson Video (Text Version)
2019 PRORP Vignette
Title: A Consumer’s Perspective: Advocating for Recovery
CPT Matthew Anderson (US Army, Retired); Consumer Consultant
I was an Infantry Platoon Leader in 2010 in Afghanistan. I had a Platoon of 31 men. I had 14 wounded in the first 20 days. We had 8 single amputees, a double, a triple—three other guys like me that didn’t lose a leg.
I stepped on anti-personnel landmine clearing a compound about 4 o'clock in the morning. Basically it was buried too deep to have a shearing effect to take the leg off. So it was just like getting hit in the heel with a jackhammer. And so the percussive force and the pressure basically shattered the calc, talus, tib, fib, bunch other small bones in the foot, and, yeah, so we had a rough start and end to the deployment. But I think we had 53 wounded out of 121 in my Company—not a good time.
I was at Brooke Army Medical Center for about a year during my rehab. I had an unofficial job as almost like a greeter for our newly wounded Service members that were coming in. And the interesting thing about that was, when you have an environment which is all wounded guys, usually with somewhat similar injuries because they’re—you’ve got below the knee, you’ve got above the knee, bilateral, whatever you got going on—you’re not the only one. You’ve got multiple, and not only multiple, but they’re also staged out. So there’s guys that are fresh. There are guys that are 6 months, 8 months, a year, 2 years, whatever, and they are a source of inspiration for each other.
And that’s how I go around and talk to the families and give them a little more on the, you know, the positive vibe. Like, “Listen buddy, I think, like I know you feel terrible. You’re lucky to be alive, and this is the bottom for you right now, but everything is going to be going up.” I’m trying to make sure that they understand what’s going on, what to look for, what things you got to do. It’s not going to be fun, but you really need to do it because it’ll make a huge impact in the long run.
I got involved with the Peer Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program when Dr. Hooper was running the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center. She said, “Hey Matt, you know, you’ve got a medical background. We need Service members that are recently wounded that can get through all the harder research without too much issue.
So the panel likes to focus on everything from rehabilitation, pain management, novel prosthetics and orthotics, and articular wound therapies to make sure that there’s minimizing wound infection later. It varies every year, and that’s what kind of makes it interesting, but you’re also allowing different organizations to be able to make that impact on the Service member.
I talk to the guys about what I do and how I’m trying to be an advocate for them. That’s why, when I ask them, I’ll be like, “Tell me what’s going on with you, like what’s—what’s the worst thing and what—what pisses you off, what would you improve?” You know, you just want them to get back to as close as they can to where they started, and I’ve seen amazing things. I’ve seen guys with terrible, life-altering, devastating injuries and, because of the prior research that’s been done, because of the awesome surgeons that we have, the physical therapists, the occupational therapists, all the other products that are being used to get them back, they can lead very, very fulfilling lives, and it’s really amazing to see how far they can take it. It’s all for them.
When we’re reviewing grants, I have a different perspective on it. I think more about the direct Service member, how it’s really going to have an impact on them. There’s a lot of things that have to get addressed. And, you know, and sometimes you’re blind to it if you don’t—if you’re not in their shoes.
So if something, I think, is a little way off in left field, I’m not afraid to speak to that. But it’s also where you run into things that you’re really passionate about because you’ve seen how much negative impact, like heterotopic ossification, when muscle tissue has bone formed within it, kind of spontaneously. In civilian practice, it’s very uncommon to see it unless it’s had a lot of trauma involved in it. But in blast victims, it’s 65 percent. And the problem with that is that, when you’re trying to put a prosthetic on somebody with this crazy, just amorphous bone fragment, it’s not comfortable. It’s unfortunate because, if there was a way to stop the enzymatic pathway that creates this bone formation right off the bat, before it even ever becomes an issue. So that’s the things that we do put a lot of money into, and that’s something that I get kind of amped up about is because I don’t want anyone in the future to have that issue. Because it’s just another insult.
Prosthetics are always one that can always improve because that—there’s too many. You know, I need one for my everyday life, and I got another one that’s for active. But instead, I’ve got one for walking, one for swimming, one for running, one for jumping, and one—you know, it’s like waa, waa, waa, like there’s one for everything. Why can't we make one leg that does everything and that I’m not going to destroy in a couple months because, you know, overuse? It’s just surprising to me that we can't do that.
To me, being on this program has been, it’s definitely an honor. I appreciate the opportunity to continue to have an impact on future wounded Service members. I loved, I loved being in the military, so it’s kind of like my—my way of staying in contact and still having—having an impact on—on those guys because, unfortunately, there will be wounded Service members in the future. You know, that’s, unfortunately, going to happen. And if we can make sure that they have the best recovery possible, then I’m more than happy to put my time and energy and effort into it to make sure that—that—yeah, that we—we make the best decisions and that we have the best outcomes for them.