September 24, 2007

Wounded Warriors, Their Families and The Haley House Fund

In my other life… the life I have lived for years that does not include my family in any way, a life of volunteer work that I do alone, traveling sometimes to parts of Florida or even to Washington DC, a life that sometime encroaches on the most important life I have which is with my family but one I still find important enough that I have not curtailed it… I am fortunate to hear people speak that I wish others could hear.

I have heard POWs from Vietnam, soldiers who have served or are still serving in Afghanistan or Iraq, scholars on Native American languages, survivors of the Bataan Death March, soldiers who rode with Patton, women who served in our military when women could only be secretaries or nurses, and numerous other speakers… that I could never do justice.

This past weekend was no exception. And as I sat enraptured by Dr. Steven Scott, of the VA Center Polytrauma unit in Tampa, speaking on Blast injuries, pouring forth for us on the history of war injuries through time, changing with each war, explaining to us how the injuries at the beginning of this war having started five years ago, are different from the injuries our medical personnel are seeing now, as he explained about rehabilitating the ‘wounded warrior’ and including the family in the process, I kept thinking, “How do I blog this?”

How does one blog not only the vast medical information, but the stories of hope and of the tenacity of our wounded warriors and their families as they make their way on their new journey through life, one altered greatly from one they had envisioned in days past?

How does one blog of the great love and care of the medical staff who wants to see success, who wants to see a wounded warrior independent again, who wants to see the family be able to cope and see them all come together again, not as a scarred family unit, but as a fully functioning family unit?

How does one blog the stories that made tears well in my eyes with pride and compassion for what was put before us regarding not only our brave ‘wounded warriors’ but of the courageous acts of their families?

Of all the talks I have heard, Dr. Scott of the James A. Haley Veteran's Hospital in Tampa, Florida was probably the most tremendous. His love for our men and women in combat, his need to care for them, the wonderful things he is doing with his team, the compassion he has for the families… it still leaves me breathless.

Polytrauma. From their site: Polytrauma care is for veterans and returning service members with injuries to more than one physical region or organ system, one of which may be life threatening, and which results in physical, cognitive, psychological, or psychosocial impairments and functional disability. The Tampa VA Center is one of four in the nation that is a designated Polytrauma center. One of its specialities is the Spinal Chord, Traumatic Brain and Blast Injuries Program.

What they are doing there is amazing.

And if listening to Dr. Scott was not enough, if hearing what he had to say about the Tampa VA center and the tremendous progress that is being made in the medical field for our wounded warriors, the next day I had the privilege of listening to the ladies of The Haley House.

The Fisher House gets full quickly and due to space constraints, I am sure, space is severly limited for family members. So if a Wounded Warrior’s wife is staying there, his mother and/or father may not be able to. If his/her mother is staying, his/her girl/boyfriend may not be able to. So that leaves the rest of the families finding places to stay, families that may not have the financial capabilities. Families include boyfriends and girlfriends… families are the support system.

It was a need that Dr. Scott and his staff saw and it was a need they took care of.

He told a story of a woman who helped inspire them to create the Haley House, a girlfriend who would come in when the doors opened to sit at the bedside of her wounded warrior and would leave when visiting hours were over. Her boyfriend could do nothing but stare at the ceiling for three weeks, having paralysis. She held his hand every day, never left his side, talking to him, bringing attention to the staff when she saw changes, the biggest change happening on the third week when he took his fingers and formed the word LOVE, letter by letter. And somebody on the staff noticed… this young woman was sleeping in her car. She slept in her car every night, having no place to stay, and during the day, she never left his side.

And her love and devotion were part of the inspiration for the Haley House… a fund established to help the families as a supplement to the Fisher House.

I listened to the most amazing women speak of the courageous families and what the Haley House Fund does. It is a fund… a local hotel with a discounted rate for Haley House families, puts the families up, with the Haley House Fund paying for the accommodations. A private Haley House Room has been established for those families, making available to them a washing machine and dryer, a family room, kitchen, and various items that you would typically have in a home, including toys for children.

I sat aghast as they told us that the location of the hotel that supports the Haley House must always remain secret for the safety of the families.

For the safety of the families.

It took my breath away. In some ways we have come so far and in other ways, things have not changed. Sad does not even begin to describe how horrified I am to know of the security measures that must be taken at the Fisher House, as they were described, and the secrecy of the Haley House.

But the tremendous revulsion I felt towards that was soon overshadowed by the tremendous good works of these wonderful volunteers who greet each family with a hug and help them on their journey with their ‘Wounded Warrior’, assisting in rehabilitating the families as well.

And the one statement that still leaves me choked, was when one of the women said to us, “The Haley House has enabled nine of our ‘Wounded Warriors’ to die with family at their side.” It is going to happen. Our wounded will come back and some will not survive and the thought of their dying without family by their side closes off my throat. The Haley House provides a way for families to be there through rehabilitation and in some instances… at the end.

For the next two years, the organization I am affiliated with will be supporting the Haley House Fund. The Haley House Fund motto is, ‘No one left behind- including families.’

I still get choked up when I think of the stories… but the dedication of the men and women who are helping our ‘Wounded Warriors’ and their families, cannot be done justice with words.

Posted by Boudicca at September 24, 2007 07:28 PM | TrackBack
Comments

*Whew*

That took a lifetime to read, every second well worth it. That was a tremendous post, and I am dichotomously both moved, and horrified.

The work they do in those places is tremendous, but the thing that got me was that the "...location of the hotel that supports the Haley House must always remain secret for the safety of the families."

WTF? Because someone would actually hurt them? Am I missing something?

You are such good peeps, and you have such a sweet and loving heart.

Posted by: Erica at September 24, 2007 08:11 PM

God bless you and your organization!

Is their website haleyhousefund [dot] com?

Thank you for bringing Haley House to our attention; as moving as this post is, it must have been incredibly difficult to write.

Posted by: pam at September 24, 2007 08:28 PM

Erica- It was just so much information and I left out so much. So many stories. So many wonderful things they are doing. So many... special people.

Pam- Yes, that is their site. I just wish everyone could hear these people speak. You can't NOT be moved by hearing them. The time and dedication of the volunteers is always humbling.

Posted by: Bou at September 24, 2007 08:36 PM

Erica- Oh, btw, yes, she said people would try to hurt the families. We were all aghast. There are horrible people in this world... truly horrible. The Haley House Fund hotel is close to the VA hospital, obviously so the families can be with their wounded warrior. And the VA hospital is near the University of South Florida. That's how it was put to us... its near a university. You'll get whackos.

Posted by: Bou at September 24, 2007 08:38 PM

I thought it was one of those things I just wasn't understanding, like, why would PATIENTS in a hospital setting need security, to protect them from being harmed?

It's sick...they protect the ungrateful little rats from bombs and evil tyrants, and then, in turn, need to be protected from the people who they're protecting?

It's beyond infuriating. I hate to sound so negative, but sometimes it feels like the bad outnumbers the good.

Posted by: Erica at September 24, 2007 10:03 PM

Bou: That was beautiful!

Posted by: Peggy U at September 24, 2007 11:00 PM

... yes, what Peggy U said..... this was a very, very touching post.... thank you....

Posted by: Eric at September 25, 2007 07:18 AM

Thanks for informing us on this worthy cause. I just sent in my donation. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: VIPERGIRL at September 25, 2007 09:29 AM

Your post brought tears to my eyes. I am appauled that we need to provide such security for our heroes and their families so these morons can actually have the right to protest them...

Posted by: Jody at September 25, 2007 11:53 AM

Thank you for that wonderful/terrible post; I linked it.
Once I stopped bawling.

Posted by: Raging Mom at September 25, 2007 12:05 PM

Great Blog. I didn't know the Haley house was secret either. Thanks.

Posted by: nickel1942 at September 25, 2007 05:15 PM

Greetings...

Our organization is worthy of your time. Please take a look at WoundedWarriors.org

Semper Fidelis!

John Folsom

Posted by: John Folsom at September 27, 2007 07:15 AM

Awesome story. The housing is a great service to provide to our fallen heros. But there are other concerns for the war wounded. Here in Richmond, VA where we have another VA Hospital with a hopping poly-trauma unit, there has been a fund established by the community; Families of the War Wounded Fund. It provides financial gifts to families who have uprooted their lives to be with a loved one wounded at war.

Similar funds can be established throughout the U.S. Especially in Tampa, Palo Alto and Minneapolis where these poly-trauma centers exist. Their business model is simple and easy to emulate. Folks want to help, establish the fund so they can.

Please contact Cal Esleeck in Richmond at 804-794-4822.

Thank you.

Posted by: AnnaMarie at September 27, 2007 11:18 AM