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South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)

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Fisher House takes the "scare" from inpatient care

A group of pumpkins sitting in the grass in the Fisher House garden

The group of volunteers, families, patients and staff prepare to eat during the inaugural Fisher House Halloween Party. The Fisher House hosts almost 800 families every year to give them an emotional and financial lift while caring for their family patients at the South Texas VA.

By Steve Goetsch
Thursday, November 5, 2015

There wasn't frost on the pumpkins yet, but rather a warm and welcoming sun at the inaugural South Texas VA Fisher House Halloween party.

It was quite a fitting backdrop for the Fisher House whose charter is to provide a warm and compassionate environment for Audie Murphy Veterans’ and Active Duty families.   

The event featured a full lunch, prepared and served by several volunteers from the Northside Church of Christ. Volunteers are in integral part of Fisher House operations. In Fiscal Year 2015, 748 Fisher House volunteers generously gave almost 4,000 hours of service.

Those volunteers prepared and served food for the patients and their families, and also organized activities like pumpkin painting, a scavenger hunt and bingo for the families, patients, staff and volunteers in attendance.

The Fisher House holds many activities for its guests that traditionally stay between 14 and 60 days.

The 14,500 square foot South Texas VA Fisher House was dedicated in March, 2013 and has 16 guest rooms, with additional amenities like a gourmet kitchen area, modern laundry facility and patio and garden.

The 16 guest rooms are consistently booked because Audie Murphy is home to one of five polytrauma centers in the United States. Polytrauma stays are generally long, requiring families to travel between their homes and Audie Murphy. One of those families is Joseph Thomas Sr., and his wife Shelia. They have been at the Fisher House for seven months to stay with their Active Duty Soldier son, who was injured while on duty. “Debra Montgomery (Fisher House PSA) and Joe Dominquez (Fisher House Volunteer) are fantastic,” Shelia said. “If you need anything at all, they are always available to you.”

 

Three people look at a painting for a clue during the Fisher House Halloween Party scavenger hunt.

Veterans and guests got to take part in several games during the inaugural Fisher House Halloween Party. The party was part of the Fisher House providing a warm and compassionate environment.

Shelia added that besides going out of their way, like grocery shopping for the Fisher House, is not the most important thing for the Thomas Family. “The Fisher House has done so much for us,” she said. “The most important thing is they listen to what you have to say.”

Shelia reflected on her son’s injuries and although the family is devastated, the professionals at the South Texas Polytrauma unit bring confidence to the Thomas Family. “It’s amazing, my son wouldn’t be where he is today without the nurses and doctors in the Polytrauma unit.”

Joseph feels good about his son’s care. “When we go home, we know he is being taken care of,” said Joseph.   

Program Manager Erik Zielinski says that is exactly the intent and mission of the VA Fisher House. “When a loved one is ill or injured, a Fisher House unites military and Veteran families and caregivers,” Zielinski said. “That relieves the financial and emotional strain of being away from home.”

Making them feel at home is important. Zielinski added that some of the 758 families they hosted in 2015 came cross country and from around the world.

One reason for that is the level of specialty care that Audie Murphy Medical center provides often requires lengthy treatment. No matter why they are in San Antonio, Zielinski wants the Fisher House to be their home away from home. “Our South Texas VA Fisher House provides a warm and compassionate environment to military families and caregivers who find support and encouragement from others in similar circumstances during trying times.”

They are continuously improving the guest experience to obtain that “home away from home” feeling. The latest is breaking ground on an outdoor kitchen and pavilion in the coming months, and an on-going grounds beautification project.

If you are interested in receiving a tour of the Fisher House, please call (210)617-5542.

If you are interested in making arrangement to stay at the South Texas VA Fisher House, there are a few requirements:

-          -  You must contact a VA social worker to obtain a referral

-          - You must live outside of a 50-mile radius of a VA facility

-          - The Veteran of the family must be a patient of South Texas Veterans Health Care System

 

Please call and check availability before arriving. (210)617-5542

 

 

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