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Unexpected Friendly Rivals

Image of A woman helps a person lifting weights. Lorraine Currow, an adaptive reconditioning program specialist at Brooke Army Medical Center’s Soldier Recovery Unit, assists a soldier in adaptive weight training at Jimmy Brought Gym, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, Aug. 11, 2022. (Photo: Robert Whetstone, Brooke Army Medial Center Public Affairs)

The Brooke Army Medical Center Soldier Recovery Unit is more than where support for wounded, ill, and injured soldiers receiving rehabilitative care takes place. In some rare instances, staff members find themselves in competition with a patient.

On Aug. 11, two members of the organization entered Fort Sam Houston’s Jimmy Brought Fitness Center, in a peculiar trainer-training the competition predicament.

BAMC SRU Adaptive Reconditioning Program specialist and retired U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Lorraine Currow, and retired U.S. Army Capt. Juan Torres Valenzuela reveled in the uniqueness of their situation. Both are members of their respective teams–Currow is on Team Navy, Torres is on Team Army–heading into the 2022 Department of Defense Warrior Games, held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, Aug. 19-28.

Currow knows exactly how adaptive reconditioning develops bonds among participants and staff alike. “There is no worse feeling than having your career stop in its tracks before you are ready,” she explained.

Her personal experience in a pain management program at Madigan Army Medical Center and at the Adaptive Reconditioning Program for Joint Base Lewis McChord changed her entire perspective on recovery.

Currow’s career began on active duty in the Navy as an air framer–aviation structural mechanic, then she enlisted in the Coast Guard. In 2013 she suffered a spinal cord injury due to a fall during a drug interdiction exercise, and a second fall in 2017, resulting in more damage, leaving her with several disc-related issues, nerve damage and a torn labrum.

Torres was commissioned through St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, becoming a second lieutenant in the infantry. He moved on to become a platoon leader with 1st Platoon, Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

A malignant brain tumor is what brought Torres to the BAMC SRU. “I started my cancer treatment receiving 33 rounds of radiation and 12 rounds/months of chemotherapy,” said Torres.

His home of record is San Antonio, and he began the chemotherapy cycles at BAMC. “It’s a way better hospital when it comes to oncology, and I would have my whole family to support me in the case I needed anything.”

The struggles they share give Currow critical insight in personalized training for Torres and other soldiers in the SRU.

“I feel like I can be on a level of communication and understanding with my soldiers who are going through transition because of my gift of injury,” added Currow.

Adaptive reconditioning plays an important role in SRUs. Soldiers recovering in an SRU follow a dynamic plan of action focusing on the soldier’s future. They prepare soldiers to either return to their previous unit, move to their next duty assignment, or transition to civilian life.

Torres is a sterling example of how a well-run organization can make life-changing events a much smoother and accepted evolution.

“The SRU and the adaptive reconditioning program kept my mind and body busy,” he stated.

Torres said this was a huge motivator and helped him enjoy more time with family and not fall in the shadows of how his condition could be seen as depressive.

The Aug. 11 training day began at the Alamo Heights Natatorium. Currow was not only training with Torres, but she assisted other soldiers from the BAMC SRU in attendance with swimming techniques. Splitting duties between training soldiers and getting ready for the Warrior Games competition is a delicate balancing act.

“I have had to really stay committed to my training,” she explained. Some days she couldn’t train until 6 p.m., when she was exhausted, or she would start the day early at 4:30 a.m. She used weekends to incorporate archery training with local coaches.

Families and caregivers are closely involved in all aspects of the soldier’s recovery. Currow’s husband, a strength and conditioning coach who was a personal training and certified corrective exercise specialist is her biggest support.

“He has been with me since my injury and has helped me with every aspect of recovery,” said Currow. “I am thankful to be given a new normal and a way to give back with the Soldier Recovery Unit.”

Both Torres and Currow are vying to be the ‘Ultimate Champion’ of the competition.

The UC is the athlete who has earned the most points (based upon their individual results within their respective sport classification categories) in the following eight individual sport competitions: archery, cycling, field, indoor rowing, powerlifting, shooting, swimming, and track.

Warrior Games showcases the resilience of service members and the importance of adaptive reconditioning activities in their recovery. Being selected to their respective teams was an unexpected surprise. Now they find themselves in a friendly Army-Navy rivalry.

According to Torres, the competition between he and Currow is going to be one filled with them pushing each other and trying to prove their worth.

“She has her strong events and I have mine,” said Torres. “I’ll definitely be more focused in each event knowing that if I get beat by her, I will never hear the end of it!”

To learn more, or follow the results of the competition, visit the Warrior Games site.

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