Brittany Domnick has always lived at full throttle. She’s the quintessential California girl, who grew up with sand between her toes—swimming in the Pacific like a fish. At 19, the “military brat” was a college girl studying neuroscience, with the hope of one day helping Wounded Warriors suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and the loss of limbs.
One sunny day in January 2011, Brittany and some friends climbed into a dune buggy on an off-road recreation area in Glamis, Ca.—one of her favorite pastimes and a regular weekend event. But this time, just seconds after the joyous ride began, it turned tragic. Hoping to avoid a tree, the driver swerved out of the way, a maneuver that sent the vehicle flipping on its side.
“When my friend asked us if we were ok, I said yes,” Brittany remembers. “But I thought my arm might have been broken. Then I saw that my hand was gone, and that I was bleeding.” As the dune buggy turned on its side, Brittany had been pinned between the roll bar and the ground, and the metal severed her hand just above the wrist.
“In the chaos I was ironically calm,” she says. Then a man in the buggy in front of Brittany’s came to the rescue. “Glen asked if someone had a belt, and then he tied it like a tourniquet to stop the bleeding,” Brittany recalls. “He is a former Marine, and knew just what to do. He is my angel.”
A friend found Brittany’s hand and packed it in ice water, an ambulance whisked her away to a local hospital, and then a helicopter airlifted her to a medical center in Arizona where surgeons attempted to reattach the hand.
Months later, Brittany had healed well enough to be fitted with a prosthetic arm and in early 2012, she moved to Northern Virginia to be with her mother, Donna Lyons.
When Brittany arrived in the Washington, D.C., area, she needed to have her prosthesis fine-tuned. Once the work was completed, the prosthetist recommended that she visit MedStar NRH for training in its use.
“I’ve learned a lot from this experience. I know I’m the same person I was before the amputation. I have the same drive to succeed. Now I want to use my drive to help other people who have had a traumatic experience like mine,” she says. “I’ve just become a peer mentor certified by the Amputee Coalition of America, and will be working with other amputees at MedStar NRH. And I’ve decided to study to be an occupational therapist.”
Brittany is well on her way. She’s catching up on missed credits at a local community college, has a Facebook page to support other people with amputation, has posted informative videos on YouTube, and plans to develop a program to help people who have experienced an appearance-altering trauma.
To learn more about the program or about participation in a research study, contact Rahsaan J. Holley, OTR/L, senior occupational therapist and clinical research coordinator, at 202-877-1875 or Jessica Barth, MS/OTR, at 202-877-1031.