Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fisher House, good family medicine for the wounded

Families are good medicine for wounded warriors
By Robin Beres
Published: February 27, 2011

The sight of a long-missed loved one is good for more than just sore eyes. It's good medicine for the entire body — especially when one is injured or ill. There can be few things more comforting to a wounded service member then having his family by his side. And there are few wives, mothers or fathers who wouldn't go through hell to be with a hurt spouse or child.

But what happens when an injured service member is sent to a hospital far from home for recovery and medical care? How does a family afford to pack up and stay for weeks or months at a time in a city that may be hundreds of miles away?

Neither the Department of Defense nor the Veterans Administration provides funds for extended family visits. Hotel stays can run into the thousands of dollars. For a young wife anxious to be near her husband — or a family wanting to be close to a son, a sister, a father — the cost of a prolonged stay far from home can be financially devastating and oftentimes impossible to manage.

Enter Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, founders of the Fisher House Foundation. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Zachary Fisher was a fabulously successful real estate developer. Although rejected for service at the outbreak of WWII due a childhood leg injury, Fisher became a strong advocate of the U.S. armed forces, devoting incredible amounts of time and money to military and veteran causes.

In 1990, Pauline Trost, wife of the then-chief of naval operations, Admiral Carlisle Trost, approached the Fishers about the desperate need to provide temporary lodging for families of patients undergoing treatment at military hospitals. The Fishers immediately donated $20 million to the project.

One year later, the first Fisher house opened at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Fully furnished, the sprawling home was able to accommodate eight families. It was a place where family members could return in the evening after an often grueling day spent in a hospital — a warm, homelike setting rather than a cramped, impersonal motel room. It provided families a chance to meet and share concerns with others going through similar crises.

Today, 53 Fisher Houses provide homes away from home that serve families of both active-duty service members and veterans. The homes are located on or near military and veterans' medical centers and hospitals. There is no cost to the government to build these homes — they are gifts from the Fisher Foundation. And there is no charge to the families who stay at the homes.
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Families are good medicine for wounded warriors

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