Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Military News

Howard Altman: Stageworks schedules play about female veteran with PTSD

An award-winning play about a female veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder is coming to Tampa.

The producers are getting a lot of help from people here who work closely with veterans in crisis.

Opening locally Friday at the Stageworks theater in Tampa, Ugly Lies the Bone by Lindsey Ferrentino chronicles a female American soldier coming home to Titusville after three tours in Afghanistan.

"When she returns, Jess is still coming to terms with her own physical and emotional scars as she grapples with the question of ‘What now?’ according to the theater website.

"As she undergoes a new innovative recovery process involving virtual reality, she builds a new world where she can begin to heal herself."

The play, which premiered in 2015, is "fully endorsed" by Hillsborough County’s innovative Veterans Treatment Court because it centers on a combat veteran who suffered both physical and invisible wounds of war, said D.J. Reyes, a retired Army colonel who serves as the court’s senior veteran mentor and coordinator.

Several themes are addressed in the 90-minute play, Reyes said, including the veteran’s physical, emotional and mental challenges returning back home; lost relationships with family and loved ones; resiliency; and medical care.

A panel discussion is scheduled after the 3 p.m. Saturday performance.

Among the panelists are Veterans Treatment Court Judge Michael Scionti, Carrie Elk of the Elk Institute for Psychological Health & Performance, and two graduates of the court who will talk about their experiences and challenges.

Elk provides therapy to service members and veterans, especially in the special operations community, and is now providing guidance to the Innovocative Theatre company, which is producing the play.

The company is "dedicated to telling Jess’s story in Ugly Lies the Bone truthfully and accurately — while still remaining true to Lindsey Ferrentino’s beautiful script," according to its Facebook page. "PTSD affects so many of our veterans; we want to get it right."

That’s why they turned for coaching to Reyes and Elk, "both of whom have tirelessly dedicated their lives to helping our country’s veterans," the Facebook page says.

The play runs through Aug. 19.

For more information, visit stageworkstheatre.org or call (813)-374-2416.

•••

The James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa recently opened up a room for virtual reality therapy. It was dedicated in the name of one of my favorite people on this beat.

The Bob Silah Virtual Reality Room was dedicated in the Polytrauma Center and is named for the retired Navy captain who founded Operation Helping Hand, an organization that has been providing monthly dinners and financial support to active duty wounded and injured members since 2004.

To date, Helping Hand — part of the Military Officers Association of America — has hosted 169 consecutive dinners honoring patients. Silah died in August 2016.

The new room includes virtual reality headsets, high-speed computers and gaming systems, along with accessories. Several of the systems are on carts that can be moved to a patient’s room. Among activities the equipment can be used for are flight, driving and shooting simulations.

Patients receiving virtual reality therapy navigate through digitally created environments and complete specially designed tasks often tailored to treat a specific ailment, according to the hospital’s website. The therapy can be used to treat ailments including PTSD and opioid management.

"Tools like this will help our patients manage their pain," said hospital director Joe Battle. "It will facilitate all kinds of treatments for them. ... We want this room to be a legacy to Bob, and the special way we can honor his commitment to all those who have fought the battle."

•••

The Pentagon announced no new deaths on ongoing operations last week.

There have been 2,347 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; 52 U.S. troop deaths and one civilian Department of Defense employee death in support of the follow-up, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel; 55 troop deaths and two civilian deaths in support of Operation Inherent Resolve; one troop death in support of Operation Odyssey Lightning, the fight against Islamic State in Libya; one troop death in support of Operation Joint Guardian, one death classified as other contingency operations in the global war on terrorism; one death in Operation Octave Shield and six deaths in ongoing operations in Africa where, if they have a title, officials will not divulge it.

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

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