Daughter of Army Vet Flies Repeatedly to Care for Ailing Dad

Jessica Wenzel first needed the Las Vegas Fisher House’s help to support her Army veteran father’s medical care when he had an emergency while Jessica was on a road trip to visit him. For more than eight months, Vietnam veteran Terrence Bailey suffered a bacterial infection, strokes, kidney failure, and more.

Doctors warned her more than once that her father wouldn’t survive, and so Jessica has struggled with logistics and stress for almost a year.

“So just having the Fisher House and Stephanie and Chris and, oh my gosh, Maria and Brian,” she said. “They're just all so warm and so welcoming and so friendly and kind and caring, compassionate and — just every good word that you can think of in the dictionary to describe the Fisher House and the people that work there and the people that run it. Just every single one of those words can be applied to them.”

Throughout her father’s care, Jessica had to try and take care of her family in Portland, Oregon, maintain her small business, and also serve as her father’s medical power of attorney. He got so sick on multiple occasions, he couldn’t make his own decisions.

Luckily, VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Fisher House Manager Stephanie Jo Wheeler knew of a tool that would help Jessica travel to Las Vegas when it was necessary.

“Stephanie made me aware of Hero Miles, too, and that's how I was able to visit and be with my dad so much down in Vegas, because I was able to utilize Hero Miles,” she said.

Fisher House Foundation's Hero Miles program uses donated frequent flyer miles to provide roundtrip airline tickets to service members and/or their loved ones during a medical crisis.

Jessica traveled nine times, sometimes rushing to reach her dad in time to make a critical decision or worried she was going to see him for the last time. One late-night call really stands out in her memory.

"He [has a do not resuscitate order] and does not want to be intubated. And the doctors were yelling at me, ‘Your dad’s going to die. Your dad’s going to die.’ And I’m like, 'Well, he doesn’t want intubation.’ And then they’re like, ‘You need to come down and say goodbye because this is it. He’s not going to make it through tonight.’ And I’m just like, ‘I can't get there before he would pass because I live up in Portland.’”

Despite all the close calls, Terrence continues to fight.

“He’s still with us. He’s got more lives than a cat,” Jessica says. “Every time, he has overcome some insane obstacles.”

But if it weren’t for being able to travel, Jessica isn’t sure she could’ve fought for her dad as hard as she has.

“I would’ve had to utilize Zoom meetings for a lot of stuff, which would not have really been feasible given my dad’s circumstances at the time, and that was while I was his medical power of attorney. Until you're in that situation, where you’re facing these life-altering decisions, you can prepare as much as you think you need until you're blue in the face, but then when you’re in these moments, you need to be there to really accurately assess the situation.”

Now, Jessica has been able to get her dad to a veteran’s home in Lebanon, Oregon, allowing her to continue advocating for her dad without needing to split her time between different states. But she remains a huge fan of Hero Miles.

“Hero Miles and the Fisher House, the whole organization is a godsend, is just an amazing, incredible organization,” she said. “And without everything that you guys have done to help facilitate me being able to be down in Vegas as many times as I was — it made my life exponentially easier.”