This summer scientists, veterans, teenagers, and researchers joined forces to restore the Hope Reef off the coast of Looe Key, Florida. About 36 volunteers planted 500 corals in a single day, the most planted in one day since the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge, SCUBAnauts International, and Mote Marine Laboratory began working together in 2012.
The organizations participate in annual day-long dives to restore Florida’s decaying barrier reef, which is a critical piece of the marine eco-system. The corals were raised in a nursery by scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory on Summerland Key who directed the volunteers. The group has planted more than 1,600 corals in total on the 50-yard-by-20-yard reef five miles offshore.
Marine research wasn’t the only science taking place that day. The dive also provided a unique environment for prosthetics research, with many of the veteran volunteers having prosthetic limbs. The University of Hartford’s College of Education, Nursing and Health Profession’s (ENHP) Assistant Professor Duffy Felmlee joined the combat-wounded veterans underwater to observe how they use balance and other strategies to perform tasks. Felmlee, with University of Harford graduate Michael McCauley, an orthotist/prosthetist and researcher, also attached sensors to the veterans’ legs to observe movement. The goal of the research is to increase the body of knowledge in regard to swimming with a prosthesis.
The information gathered about underwater swimming with SCUBA in the prosthetic patient population has application for various forms of recreational and therapeutic activities for other patient populations as well. Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge, with support from ENHP’s Prosthetics and Orthotics department, is continuing this line of investigation. A protocol has been designed by Felmlee and McCauley for future research. Associate Professor Adam Goodworth and Assistant Professor Kristamarie Pratt have also been assisting in protocol and data refinement.
“Having the opportunity to work alongside combat wounded veterans has been a great experience,” said Felmlee. “Interacting with individuals who have already given so much for their country and then continue to give back to the amputee and rehabilitation communities is quite humbling. Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge and the veterans with their families and support networks have certainly proved their will to help. Now, ENHP’s Prosthetics and Orthotics Program is contributing the expertise and resources to provide the way.”
The Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge seeks to improve the lives of wounded and injured veterans through rehabilitative, high-adventure and therapeutic outdoor challenges while furthering the physiological, biomedical, and pathological sciences associated with their injuries. The veterans who participate in the outdoor challenges have suffered from traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, or have lost limbs.
The partnership between ENHP and Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge has already seen great potential in various environments and are looking forward to achieving greater outcomes to benefit the environment and individuals.