Friends of the VA Puget Sound Fisher House Programs
Since opening on September 10, 2008, the VA Puget Sound Fisher House has been privileged to serve over 2,600 families of Veterans and active duty military personnel from 43 states, the District of Columbia and 8 foreign countries.
Guests at Fisher House are here for one reason: to provide support and encouragement to their ill or injured loved one. However, the role of caretaker is a heavy one. The stresses of illness and being away from home are challenging. But in order to provide support to the patient the caretakers have to take care of themselves. All too often caregivers need to be reminded to eat something nourishing or get enough rest, let alone take any time just for themselves. With that in mind we are always looking to expand our offering of programs that help meet the needs of our guests and allow them some much needed "me time"
Donations have gone to provide $17,500 worth of groceries and household needs at the Fisher House yearly. There are services and events weekly to provide relaxation and respite for the families. Volunteers and professionals volunteer to provide weekly activities such as massage therapy, yoga, and organic herb and vegetable gardening. There is a healing garden and a children's garden to extend the haven to the outdoors. A portion of the donations also allow us to pay for the "community" portion of construction costs.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
There are many family stories that are heartwarming and touching. Here is one.
It was nearly 6pm on a Friday evening and the office at VA Puget Sound Fisher House should have long been closed. “I was just finishing up some paperwork and nearly ready to leave when the phone stated to ring,” says Assistant Manager Lorraine Thomas. “I almost didn’t answer”. For Hallie Weir, it’s a good thing she did. “God was looking out for me,” says Hallie. The young wife and mother had come up from Salem, Oregon with her youngest child, three month old Dorian, in tow. “It was just going to be for the weekend,” says Hallie. “I couldn’t afford to be gone longer; I just wanted to check on my husband”.
Her husband, Army Specialist Jeremy Weir, had checked in to VA Puget Sound for treatment of PTSD. Jeremy had returned from Iraq in 2004 but for this Purple Heart recipient, getting back to “normal” became increasingly difficult. Marriage to Hallie in 2007 and the birth of their first child, Audrey, were happy events but not enough to pull Jeremy out of the darkness. The family continued to grow, with another daughter, Ava and then son Dorian but for Jeremy, the normal stresses of civilian family life weighed too heavily on the young Veteran. ^pBut wife Hallie is a fighter. “It was hard for him to be around the kids. Things weren’t going well between us. But I didn’t get married to get a divorce. I wanted to try and get my husband back. I wanted my kids to have their daddy back”.
With Hallie’s support Jeremy sought treatment, first at the Portland (OR) VA hospital and then came to Puget Sound Health Care System . He’d been in Seattle for a couple of weeks while Hallie was with the children at home. “I was worried and just wanted to check in with him. I was going to stay at a motel for the weekend and then the social worker told me about Fisher House”.
Hallie was overwhelmed. “The house provided comfort, security and safety. The motel was scary. But Fisher House was so warm and caring”. Hallie decided to bring up her daughters from Oregon. “I missed them so much and I knew that Fisher House had a good atmosphere. The girls would be taken care of; it helps so much to have the other guests for support. We found a community at Fisher House”.
More importantly, Hallie was able to be more proactive regarding Jeremy’s treatment. “I was able to talk to the doctors, to spend time with Jeremy and was able to help him more because I was right there, not four and a half hours away. It helped me create a support system around him and it allowed me to remind him that he’s got all this to fight for”. She gestured to the children playing at her feet. “And I know it was a nice outlet for him, being able to come over here to the house to hang out and see us”. She smiled proudly and added, “He gave me a card thanking me for being here. He wrote, ‘You are my security’”.
Jeremy echoed Hallie’s sentiments. “I was a total winner at Bingo, for one thing,” he grinned, then added “It can be depressing if you don’t have anything to look forward to. It helped having her so close; to be able to see the kids”.
The healing process has only begun for the Weir family but their commitment to that process is firm. “I’m a pretty strong person,” said Hallie. “But being at Fisher House made this time so much easier. I found a community here that helped me focus on the important things. I’m so glad you answered that phone!”