Lee Madden hadn’t seen her brother in years. Growing up in a household with her father and two brothers serving in the U.S. Airforce for over 35 years, Lee moved to Australia 40 years ago but stayed in touch with her brother, Mark, through phone calls and emails, hoping to see him again after the pandemic. Her opportunity came sooner than she thought, but not under the circumstances for which she had hoped.
You see, her brother Mark, now in his 60’s, a veteran U.S. Air Force medic and a retired nurse at the Veterans Administration Medical Center at Long Beach, was recently diagnosed with a rare form of dementia. He was immediately admitted to the VA Long Beach, a place where he had taken care of his fellow veterans for so many years.
Lee received a late-night, long-distance call from a VA social worker who shared that Mark’s dementia was advanced and that she needed to come and help with Mark’s care and affairs. She quickly arranged for an emergency leave from her job, packed, and bought a ticket for the first flight she could get.
Throughout the 23-hour flight, she wondered where she would stay. Where would she eat? Who would provide the legal, financial and respite care her brother needed? She worried about the enormous tasks ahead of her and the costs involved.
The VA social worker who called her assured her, “after landing at LAX, just come directly by taxi to the Fisher House at the VA-Long Beach, where you can stay free of charge, for as long as needed.”
Lee didn’t know what to expect, but when she arrived, Fisher House Long Beach staff welcomed her warmly, made sure she was comfortable and nourished, and helped her to her beautiful and quiet room, her ‘home away from home’ for the next few weeks. Staff also helped her with her brother’s affairs as she closed out his apartment, sold his car and made plans for his future care.
Afraid of driving in a big, unfamiliar city and on the wrong side of the road, staff helped her with an Uber app and supported her with transportation gift cards so she could get to her many appointments.
“I could not have managed so many urgent and competing demands without the sanctuary of Fisher House. I was shown great kindness, and nothing was too much for the Fisher House team. This was not just a place to stay — it was an island of calm I returned to each evening after hours of struggling with the many demands of clearing my brother’s apartment, choosing a care home, attending to legal matters, and spending precious time with my brother.”
Fisher House Southern California regularly provides this kind of support for all U.S. veterans and military families and their children travelling from other countries, states, and other parts of California to receive their care, or to be with their loved ones getting care at the VA-Long Beach hospital, or Camp Pendleton or San Diego Navy hospitals. Temporary lodging is also provided in the Southland to families traveling far from home when no Fisher House is available, such as near the VA-Loma Linda Medical Center.
We’re asking that you help us continue with this mission.
We’re excited to share with you that through December 31, 2022, every dollar you donate will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $100,000 — thanks to the generous donations of $50,000 from the Larry and Helen Hoag Foundation, and $25,000 each from the Martin & Clarisse Clancy Foundation and the Fisher House So Cal Board of Directors. (The Larry and Helen Hoag Foundation will specifically cover the emergent needs of the children we serve at our Fisher House-Long Beach.)
And in honor of our recently deceased Fisher House So Cal President, Mr. Terry Geiling, a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy and a committed leader in our community, we are renaming our fund the Terry Geiling Family Emergency Fund.
As Lee wrote:
“I was emotionally and physically exhausted when I arrived in Long Beach, and felt lost. Fisher House was not simply a house – it was my home, and they cared for me just as the VA Medical Center cared for my brother, Mark. I couldn’t have done all that was required without them.”
And that’s what Fisher House does for veterans and U.S. family members – it provides a ‘home away from home’ for them in their most desperate time of need. And this is why I’m asking you to help us now. Through December 31, 2022, Every Dollar You Donate is doubled! Your dollar is now two!
“Every day when I visited Mark in the hospital, he was very concerned about where I was staying, if I was comfortable, and if I was safe. Each time I told him about Fisher House, he became visibly less concerned and more at peace. I am immensely thankful for what Fisher House gave to my brother!”
On behalf of the countless future patients and families who will be helped by Fisher House Southern California, Thank You for your generosity, and for your love and concern for our veterans and our military families. We couldn’t do it without you.