“Home away from home” in case of medical need > US Department of Defense > Defense Department News

For 32 years, more than 430,000 U.S. service members, veterans, and their families have made a Fisher House their home away from home during long hospital stays and short-term outpatient care, all free of charge.

The first Fisher House opened in 1991 at the former National Naval Medical Center – now called Walter Reed National Military Medical Center – in Bethesda, Maryland. Later this year, the 93rd Fisher House is set to open in Lexington, Kentucky.

Located at major Army and Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, VA Fisher homes outnumber 50 to 41 Department of Defense homes. The homes provide up to 5,840 nights of accommodation, saving veterans and service members more than $640,000 a year, according to the foundation.

There is also a Fisher House UK at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England. This is a special partnership between the Fisher House Foundation, Helping Our Heroes Foundation and University Hospitals Birmingham Charity. It is the only Fisher House that supports the military of another country.

Lexington Fisherman’s Cottage

The Lexington home will house 16 veterans and their families in nearly 15,000 square feet of living space. This will be the first VA Fisher House in Kentucky. A fisherman’s cottage for service members operates at Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

The foundation works with the three DOD military surgeon generals and the VA to decide where the homes are most needed, based — in large part — on the number of service members and veterans in the area.

Each fisherman’s cottage is known for the instant community created by residents, united by their shared mission to support a sick or injured loved one. Each home provides service members, veterans and families with a place to rest and recharge after a long day in the hospital, a foundation spokesperson said.

Sense of community

Dennis Dutton, an Army and Air Force veteran, is in one of Walter Reed’s five fisherman’s houses. A kidney transplant patient, Dutton particularly values ​​the sense of community and camaraderie with other patients and families.

Dutton’s wife, Jenny, telecommutes from Fisher House, which has 16 single rooms, an open dining room, large kitchen and community rooms. “Oh, we are blessed,” Dutton said. “It’s being able to interact with other patients and families [that’s meaningful] because you are able to share your experiences – and that helps, especially when you don’t have a transplant every day,” he said.

“It brings some comfort because you’re going through the same thing, and being able to support each other is another benefit you wouldn’t get at a hotel. It’s more than just an establishment, it’s also a community. It’s the Army connections that keep us home,” he said. Dutton plans to return home to Kingsport, Tennessee, when his medical treatment is complete in August.

Ken Fisher, president and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, said his uncle, Zachary Fisher, built the first of the Fisher houses. In 1990, Zachary Fisher received a call from Pauline Trost, wife of the then Chief of Naval Operations. She told the developer and the architect that some service members slept in their vehicles because they couldn’t afford a hotel during lengthy outpatient treatment. He volunteered to build the first two Fisher homes for military patients and their families.

Family legacy

Carrying on the family legacy, the young Fisher became CEO of the foundation after dedicating a home at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. “I think Uncle Zachary knew what he was doing when he sent me there because I immediately got involved,” he recalled.

While her work with the foundation began with a desire to continue a legacy, Fisher said it is now her life. “I love that Fisher House has become so important to me personally and to families,” he said.

“I never served, so that was something I had to reconcile,” Fisher said. “I didn’t want to lead the foundation and ignore [the issues] just to make it work. So I dove into it. What I’ve learned is that the whole family serves, and when a loved one is hurt, sick or injured, their life is turned upside down.”

critical need

When Fisher was named to the Presidential Commission on the Care of Wounded Warriors Returning to the United States, his learning curve skyrocketed, especially with wounded service members returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said. note.

“As we know, battlefield survival rates in OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] and OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] were above 95%, which means [service members] survived horrific injuries [improvised explosive devices] and other terrible things that would have been fatal in previous conflicts,” he said.

This placed an incalculable burden on military and VA hospitals to care for the injured, and the construction of Fisher Houses at VA medical centers became critical, Fisher said.

Family support is vital

Like other fishermen’s houses, the Lexington house “will allow families to come together and help each other because one of the by-products of these houses was… when you bring so many people together in such a stressful situation, no one I didn’t really know what it was like. He, he took root as a support system forming in every home, and that support system really became the brick and mortar that holds those homes together,” Fisher said.

Having family with a hospitalized military member was an early beacon when service members returned from the war in Afghanistan with head trauma and other injuries that made it difficult for them to defend themselves in a medical environment.

“It became vital for them to have family there, not only to support them but also to advocate for them in terms of medical treatment,” Fisher said.

He said another by-product of families staying at Fisher Houses is that it also gives family members the chance to heal, as they also experience trauma. “Having the family there is so important in that regard,” Fisher added.

Other initiatives

The Fisher Houses operate as public-private partnerships with donors after the houses were donated to DOD and VA medical treatment facilities. After the foundation was completed, there were two main stipulations: the houses had to be within walking distance of the hospital and the lodgings had to be free, Fisher pointed out. “Fisher houses provide a safe haven for families and allow the patient to worry about their recovery, not their family,” he said.

When Fishermen’s Houses are fully occupied, the Hotel for Heroes program can provide a hotel room. Veterans and service members who want more information can visit FisherHouse.org, call the foundation at 888-294-8560 or 301-294-8560, or speak to the social worker handling their case or a responsible for Fisher House.

Meals at the Fisher Houses are not provided, but families can bring food to cook in the communal kitchens stocked with utensils, pots, and pans. A spokesperson for the foundation said community volunteers sometimes contribute meals, drinks, coffee and snacks. Some houses have bins in the refrigerators so that guests in each room can store their groceries. The Fisher House Foundation and other donors sometimes provide meal cards.

If veterans need transportation, the Hero Miles program uses donated frequent flyer miles to pay for flights when transportation is not available, a spokesperson said.

Fisher estimated that service members, veterans and their families have saved $500,000 million in travel and accommodation costs through other foundation initiatives that help them access medical treatment.

Fisher said that every night 1,300 families will sleep safely in a fisherman’s house. “It’s a privilege for me to do this every day,” he said.

Related links:

Fisher House helps military families
Friends of Lexington Fisher House
Fisher House UK-UHB Charity

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