Far away from home and with no transportation, Patricia Thomas spends her days waiting for her son to get better.
Francisco Cruz Jr. manages the Fisher House.
Photo by Charmain Z. Brackett
"He was diagnosed with manic depression," said Thomas, who has been at Fort Gordon's Fisher House since Oct. 24 while her son, Jeffrey Thomas, receives treatment at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center.
He was transferring from active duty to the Army Reserves when he became ill. He's been in the hospital since Oct. 16 while doctors try to find the right combination of medications to treat his illness.
"You just take one day at a time," said Thomas who didn't have a projected discharge date for her son.
Fisher House is designed to be a home away from home for military families while their loved ones receive treatment at a military hospital or VA hospital. There are 31 Fisher Houses in the United States and Germany.
"It's been such a blessing for more than one reason," said Thomas, who is in walking distance to the hospital, where her son is a patient.
The Fort Gordon Fisher House opened in April 1993. It has seven bedrooms, a living room, large kitchen and dining room. There is also a computer room for residents to send e-mails back to family members and there is a washer and dryer room.
Families who live more than 40 miles from the hospital can stay at the house when space is available for only $10 a night. The house is often full, said manager Francisco Cruz Jr.
During fiscal year 2001, 328 families stayed at Fisher House a total of 2,612 nights while their loved ones received treatment.
Oscar Maxwell and his daughter, Osiris, were on their second visit to Fisher House this year.
Mr. Maxwell's wife, Angela, needed heart surgery.
The family lives in Columbus, Ga., but the surgery could not be performed at Fort Benning. The family was hoping their matriarch would return home around Christmas.
"It's a home away from home," said Mr. Maxwell. "There's a dining room and a kitchen and you can bring stuff in and cook it up."
An added bonus of staying in Fisher House is being around people who have a common bond of having a loved one requiring medical treatment, and the kitchen often seems to be the place families like to congregate.
"You can talk to them," said Thomas. "They are dealing with the same emotions. You can support each other."
The Fisher House receives a lot of support from the community. The small fee is not enough to keep the house operating, Cruz said.
On a daily basis, volunteers bring pastries to the families staying at Fisher House. At Thanksgiving, the Enlisted Wives' Club members provided a full Thanksgiving meal.
For Christmas, various groups have held Christmas parties at the house. In the spring, the health services auxiliary sponsors a golf tournament fund raiser and plans an Easter celebration at the house.
The Officers' Wives' Club donates money to the house as well.
Fisher House also relies on contributions generated through the Combined Federal Campaign.
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