A normal day for Matthew Ritenour used to consist of waking up at sunrise to supervise physical trainings and battlefield drills – typical duties for a military staff sergeant. When overseeing an entire squad, you have to be dedicated to helping your team achieve their full potential every step of the way.
Beginning his military service in 1996, Ritenour rose through the ranks and eventually became a squad leader, where he was proud to guide and protect his soldiers.
“The most rewarding thing from my experience serving in the military was being a leader,” Ritenour says. “Guiding a group of people fresh out of basic training, it was tough. But seeing where we started, and then seeing where my squad ended up – it’s rewarding.”
In his role, Ritenour was acutely aware of the risk of physical injury he and his unit faced as part of their military duties. However, the chance of sustaining a traumatic brain injury was not something he thought about until he faced a life-changing incident on the front lines in 2007.
While serving in southern Afghanistan, Ritenour was shot in the head in the line of fire. Ritenour made the courageous decision to continue leading his squad through enemy lines, manning the radio and directing fire for the next hour – all with his brain injury.
The incident left Ritenour partially paralyzed, but thanks to physical and rehabilitative therapies as well as educational and supportive services, he has overcome much of his injury and has regained much of his mobility. Today, he enjoys spending quality time with his family, including his two daughters.
While Ritenour’s brain injury was obvious and occurred during the heat of battle, other service men and women experience concussions that are less noticeable and off the battlefield. Approximately 84 percent of concussions in the military occur in non-combat situations.1 In fact, most head injury incidents occur during training drills or in day-to-day accidents. Ritenour remembers a fellow solider slipping on ice and hitting his head, as well as a former naval hospital roommate falling off of a balcony while in Iraq.
As our military is committed to protecting us, it is important that they have strong options to protect their health. Abbott is proud to collaborate with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a portable blood test capable of rapidly evaluating potential concussions. Whether on the battlefield or not, Abbott is hopeful a test like this could positively impact the care of our soldiers.
For additional information:
1. Information provided to Abbott by the U.S. Department of Defense. Represents data for traumatic brain injuries from 2000 through 2011.