By Theresa Gutierrez
Illinois has a new facility to provide a 'home away from home' for families of wounded service members.
The first Fisher House in the state is located at Hines VA hospital and is designed to help relatives of wounded military personnel.
The Hines VA Fisher House serves veterans families while their loved ones undergo long-term rehabilitation programs, including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and blind rehabilitation.
It is also for families experiencing unexpected hospitalization.
The $6.2 million, two-story comfort home provides free temporary housing for families of wounded service members and other military or veteran patients receiving medical treatment at Hines VA hospital.
The house consists of 20 suites and has been open for over a month. It has already helped 75 families, including Carol Thomas, whose husband receives kidney dialysis three times a week.
"It really does feel like home away from home. Other families here, we hug one another, cry on each other's shoulders," Thomas said.
"If this was not here, a lot of families would not be able to be with their loved ones," said Holly Wright, Fisher House manager. "We welcome them. They get a beautiful facility and kitchen."
The house features common living and dining rooms areas and top-of-the-line kitchens.
Friday, Gov. Pat Quinn and Tammy Duckworth helped cut ribbon officially dedicating the 44th Fisher House in the country.
"There are no words in the English language or any language that can sum up how important it is to have a loved one to be at your bedside when you are recovering from grievous wounds," said Governor Quinn.
Duckworth talked about another Fisher House, which helped her and her family to recover from her war injuries.
Duckworth worked for seven years to bring the Fisher House to ill.
"The hospital saved my life. Fisher House taught me how to live again," said Duckworth, VA Asst. Sec. for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.
For the servicemen and veterans who immediate medical assistance, it is their refuge.
"They need to focus on healing, and the idea that family is taken care of and the wonderful places of refuge makes all the difference," said Lt. Gen. David Hountoon Jr., U.S. Army.
Everyone present Friday was given a tour of the Fisher House, including Fisher House Foundation Chairman Ken Fisher, whose uncle founded the original Fisher House in 1990 because he saw a need for it.
"This house, as with all others, will honor the sacrifices of those who have served our nation's veterans and the world-class health care professionals to carry out that work," Ken Fisher said.
Ken Fisher said, this year, Fisher House foundation celebrates its 20th anniversary and will mark construction of its 50th Fisher House worldwide.
Fifteen Fisher Houses are currently under construction.
There is at least one Fisher House at every major military medical center to assist families in need and to ensure that they are provided with the comforts of home in a supportive environment.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski