The gleaming $5.6 million Fisher House at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center is impressive to Sharon Creamer. But when she returns from the VA where her paralyzed veteran husband is being treated, she likes the gazebo behind the house best.
“You can meditate,” she said, and feel a breeze on your face and enjoy the landscaped grounds. “Just have some downtime.”
The 20-bedroom Fisher House was dedicated Wednesday to serve not only families of veterans such as James Dennis Creamer but also the families of personnel in the Active Duty Rehabilitation Unit, the only one housed inside a VA.
Older veterans already mix with the newly injured in the unit’s gym and there is a unique energy created out of that, said Dr. Dennis Hollins, the service line executive for Rehabilitation Medicine Service.
“The synergy between those two groups is really remarkable,” he said.
The appreciation now shown the younger returning military for their service also reflects on those older veterans who might not have received it when they first came back, Hollins said.
“It’s been a way for people to embrace that Vietnam-era veteran,” he said. “This is what should have happened for them.”
Nowhere is that more evident than in Augusta, said Ken Fisher, the CEO and chairman of Fisher House Foundation.
“Augusta continues to point the way forward, and I am proud to call you a partner of Fisher House,” he said.
There is nowhere else where the VA, the military and the community have more extensive and deep collaborations, said William Schoenhard, the deputy under secretary for health operations and management at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“This is a very, very special mission,” he said.
Having a husband who is paralyzed and can spend more than a year at a time in the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at the Augusta VA meant keeping up with family and friends by phone from a motel room, Creamer said. That has changed with the Fisher House, where she can come back and share with others, such as a young wife dealing with a newly paralyzed husband, she said.
“I give her pointers,” Creamer said. “She’s a nervous wreck. She doesn’t know what to do.”
And that’s the point of bringing the families together where they can stay for free and be part of the healing process.
“The other residents that are here, we communicate like a family,” Creamer said. “Because everyone has their story to tell.”