South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)
They are brothers in arms, and in hearts
Part of the Patient Experience is the relationship they have with staff. It might be a few minutes long; asking for directions to a clinic, or shorter, like shaking a hand and providing a grateful thank you. But sometimes those positive relationships last much longer like Veteran Mario Medina and his wife Julie.
They have known South Texas VA Engineering Service employees David Tolliver and Daniel Janson Jr., for over 25 years.
The chance meeting between them at a church service is where it all started. There was an instant bond. “Mario always enjoyed the opportunities to share war stories of both our Veterans’ service over the course of many years,” Tolliver said.
Janson added that he practically grew up over at the Medina’s, playing with their children. Tolliver’s family was also tight with them. “His boys attended the same school as my sons,” Tolliver said.
Not only do they have faith and military service in common, they shared a lifetime of being in the trades and working together as independent contracting business owners.
Fate or maybe just coincidence touched the Veterans’ lives again. Tolliver was asked to be a guest speaker at a luncheon event at the South Texas VA Fisher House. The topic of the Medina family came up, and Erik Zielinski, program manager for the South Texas VA Fisher House mentioned that Julie was staying at the Fisher House because Mario had fallen very ill.
They were shocked, and immediately went to see him at the South Texas VA Palliative Care Unit.
His wife Julie was just getting over her own health issues and was glad they could visit their friend. Staying over at the Fisher House, Julie spent long days staying with Mario. “It [hospital bed] wasn’t built for two, but my husband wanted me to lay by his side,” Julie said. She found relief in Tolliver and Janson’s visits.
Zielinski arranged a room at the Fisher House for Julie to be able to see her husband easily. The Fisher House is located immediately across from the STVHCS Community Living Center and palliative care unit.
Seeing the connection and impact Mario had on these two South Texas VA employees, Zielinski wanted to honor Mario’s service and asked Fisher House volunteer, Julene Slora to present a special patriotic, hand-made quilt to Mario. Slora was honored by the invitation to present it, and says it was appropriate and overdue. “I appreciate the sacrifices of our military members and their families,” Slora said. “Too often they go unrecognized, especially in their later years when they are not that visible.”
After spreading the quilt over Mario’s bed, Slora read an inscription that is included on every patriotic quilt the San Antonio Quilter’s Guild creates for a Veteran.
Mario, after receiving the quilt, rendered a salute to his fellow Veteran Tolliver, who solemnly returned it to his ailing friend.