It was a hot summer day when we met an Army Reservist and his wife at their small apartment near the Richmond VA Medical Center (VAMC). They had relocated from New York to allow the soldier to receive care at the VAMC’s highly acclaimed Spinal Cord Injury Unit. He had been shot in the back of the neck while serving in Iraq and is paralyzed from the chest down.
His wife, who was pregnant with their first child, has been by his side the whole time. Their news was great this day. They had just learned that the accessible home being built for them by Homes for our Troops would be ready within a few months. As we sat together at their kitchen table, the spouse said she was anxious about having her first child with no friends or family nearby. She worried about how she would get to the hospital if she went into labor at home and was unable to drive.
The couple also shared concerns about getting their apartment ready for move-out and their house ready for move-in (The spouse would be in her last trimester at move time). The soldier added one more concern – his fitness. He had participated in a study at the Richmond VAMC involving an exercise cycle that uses electrical current to move legs and arms to simulate riding a bike. He said the VA had stopped regular rehabilitative therapy, and he believed this equipment would allow him to maintain core strength and avoid muscle atrophy. He wanted to stay strong for his family. The equipment was expensive and not covered by insurance. We made a note.
After the meeting, it was time to get to work. A little internet research and a phone call connected the family with a local doula, Leila Ballard, of Belly Blessings. Leila provided 4 weeks of pre-delivery care, was on call 24-7 to respond to any urgent situations, accompanied the family to the delivery, and provided 4 weeks of post-partum care. She charged only enough to cover her costs. We funded this service through our partnership with Azalea Charities – a priceless contribution to the family’s well-being.
Knowing that move-out cleaning was the last thing this couple needed to worry about during the last trimester of pregnancy, we contacted Cleaning for Heroes, a national non-profit that provides house cleaning for veterans who are 100% disabled. They immediately responded with the pre-move cleanings, as well as bi-monthly cleanings for four months at a discounted rate. Azalea Charities funded the additional cleanings.
Now came the exercise cycle. Our research revealed that many recommended it, insurance seldom paid for it, a prescription was required, and the price tag was around $24,000. We turned to the veteran’s Army Wounded Warrior Program case manager and asked her who we could talk to. She provided us with contact information for the Chief of the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at the Richmond VAMC. We sent an e-mail to ask him whether the equipment was beneficial – and if so – would he write a prescription and advocate its coverage by insurance. We planned to pay the co-pay. This wonderful doctor responded within two hours stating that our client was eligible to participate in a new research study that provided this very equipment, at no cost to the veteran, in the veteran’s home. What a difference an e-mail can make! The veteran was ecstatic.
We are happy to report that this family continues to thrive. Of course their life has been forever changed as a result of the veteran’s service to country, but the family is happy and growing! The veteran continues to work hard to maintain his fitness and maximize his independence and he and his wife have now added a new baby girl to the family! We are so happy to have had the blessing to meet this family and help the nation show them our appreciation for their service to country!