On Friday, Jan. 10, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Fisher House celebrated the second anniversary of checking-in its first guest back in 2018.
In those two years, the house has served more than 1,660 Veteran families—providing them a free place to stay while their loved one undergoes medical treatment.
On the morning of the second anniversary, one of the Fisher House’s recent long-term guests was checking out of their 90-day stay. U.S. Army Veteran William “Gene” Driggers and his wife Margaret checked-in to the Fisher House on Oct. 10, 2019 while Gene was undergoing a lung transplant at the Medical University of South Carolina.
“It made me relaxed going into surgery knowing my wife has somewhere safe to stay,” said Gene.
Before being placed on the transplant list at the Medical University, the Driggers had to verify they had $15,000 saved in an account. This money would go to cover the lodging and meals in Charleston, along with necessary medication in the 90-days following the operation. For therapy following the surgery, patients are required to stay in the local area. The Driggers are from Hamer, South Carolina, about 160 miles—a two-and-a-half-hour drive—from the Medical University.
“We had a free place to stay here at the Fisher House and free food too—it was incredible,” said Gene. “Now we get to save that money to pay our bills at home.”
“The volunteers here are amazing and the food is incredible,” said Margaret. She laughed while joking with Gene about how they’ve both gained weight during their stay at the Fisher House.
The Driggers agree that they’re not sure where they’d be without the support of the Fisher House during the last three months. Even outside of the monetary benefit, they’ve gained so much.
“Being in a house where everyone is going through the same types of ordeals is just so comforting and supportive,” said Margaret. “This Fisher House helped reduce my stress during a very stressful time.”
As they checked-out the Driggers reflected on how far Gene has come in the time following his surgery.
“When the doctor asked me what my goals were after surgery, I told him that Margaret has always walked faster than me and that I wanted her to have to keep up with me,” laughed Gene.
The couple is now walking four miles together each day—and it’s true, Margaret is now struggling to keep up with her husband. The historical Charleston neighborhood surrounding the Fisher House provided a beautiful backdrop to their daily exercise, motivating them to keep ticking off those miles.
Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Fisher House Manager Vicki Johnson has been with the Driggers every step of the way.
“In the military, we look out for one another, and here we do the same,” said Johnson, a retired Air Force Veteran herself.
Johnson has been managing the Fisher House since the doors opened in 2018 and has had the opportunity to see all the families that have stayed at the home during their journey.
“We see these Veterans and their families during some of the most difficult times in their lives,” said Johnson. “Its our job to make them as comfortable as possible, helping them with those day-to-day ‘to-dos’ like cooking, cleaning, and transportation, so that they can focus on caring for their Veteran and themselves.”
Veterans and their families are referred to the Fisher House through their social worker and quickly taken care of by the staff at the Fisher House.
Interested in how you can help as a volunteer at the Fisher House or interested in donating? Click here or call 843-805-8200.