Many Veterans sit alone in their hospital room waiting for a visitor or just for a break from the monotony that can come from being an inpatient. Some Veterans require interaction and fine motor skills rehabilitation as part of their treatment. It was because of that need that an organization called Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) was established.
In 1971, a group of people from San Diego visited wounded Vietnam-era Marines and heard that patients needed something to do with their time. And so, HHV was born.
In the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS), the HHV program has Melody Guptill. A Craft Care Specialist since 2002, Guptill is a dedicated advocate for the HHV program, responsible for distributing approximately 1500 craft kits a month just within the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital.
Guptill has seen the impact that these deliveries can have on the patients. She tells the story of a Veteran who was among her first when she came on board in 2002. This Veteran didn’t socialize or interact with anyone, even avoiding eye contact. When Guptill first began delivering craft kits to him, her efforts seemed futile. Time after time, she would deliver kits or just stop to visit this Veteran and after a while, he opened up and began completing the kits and interacting with hospital staff and other Veterans. This treatment was so successful for the patient that he now comes to the hospital just to visit with Guptill, as do many others that she and the HHV program have helped.
The activity choices for the are diverse: from leather kits to paint by numbers, from model cars to puzzle books, there is something for everyone. The program is so successful that many of the volunteers who now work with Guptill are previous patients who understand how important the program is and want to continue to be part of it, helping their fellow Veterans by empathizing with their individual recovery journeys.
As the mother of a disabled child, Guptill understands the importance of art therapy. Seeing firsthand the impact that this type of therapy had on her daughter, she chose to begin her career in therapy. Her motivator for working with the HHV program? "My grandfather served in Korea, my father and father-n-law served in Vietnam and my husband has done 5 tours in Iraq. I have seen, first hand, the despair and isolation that results from experiencing combat. Our men and women, who have served our country so well, deserve some support and recognition for their sacrifices and I am honored to help in any way I can. I believe in HHV and what the program does for our Veterans. I have seen paraplegics gain a whole new sense of well being, simply by doing our arts and crafts. I am privileged to be part of such a dedicated organization."