Honoring those who have selflessly served our country.
Veterans Visiting Veterans is a program that brings UH Lake Health volunteers who are veterans together with veterans hospitalized at UH TriPoint Medical Center and UH Lake West Medical Center.
A shared connection
Monday through Friday, a veteran volunteer visits with each hospitalized veteran, giving these special patients respect and well-deserved recognition.
On the first visit, the volunteer brings a gift bag. The bag includes a small American flag and stand, a flag magnet, a veteran information packet and a handmade patriotic lap blanket. With the patient’s approval, the volunteer will place the flag on the bedside table, put the magnet outside the patient door―identifying the patient as a veteran―and place the blanket―designed, handmade and donated by a community member―on the bed or chair.
Then, if the patient feels up to it, the volunteer spends time visiting with the patient and any family in the room. Their common experiences and understanding about veteran life make it easy to connect, empathize, share stories and laugh together.
“I enjoy visiting the veteran patients,” says Vietnam-era Army veteran Jim Walters, who was wounded several times. “They like to share their experiences, and I do too. There’s a special camaraderie because your military experience is part of the fabric of your life.”
“What’s rewarding is that the patients and families are so appreciative that they hug and kiss and take pictures with us,” says Marine veteran Bill Juratovac who served in Khe Sanh, Vietnam. “It means so much to share experiences, especially if you can make a patient smile or laugh. We have good conversations, and sometimes the camaraderie makes it hard to leave.”
Veteran patients have been surprised and appreciative of the recognition. But more importantly, they appreciate the personal visits and the time spent crafting the unique, handmade blankets.
“I love what you’re doing at TriPoint,” says Gulf War Navy veteran Vince Berry, Sr, who was a patient and has two daughters and an adopted son following in his footsteps by serving in the Navy. “I really admire and appreciate the recognition, honor and care expressed through the Veterans Visiting Veterans program. It means more than I can put into words. I would rather be cared for at TriPoint than anywhere else because of their care and this program.”
Help give more
Since it started, UH Lake Health Volunteer Services has expanded the program, offering it to veterans who are patients at UH Lake West Medical Center as well. There are volunteer veterans visiting patients at Lake West…they just need more volunteers to make lap blankets.
“We’re so grateful for the many community volunteers who make and donate the blankets,” says Loretta Kruse, director of Volunteer Services at UH Lake Health. “We distribute an average of 10 to 12 blankets each week and love the community involvement! We’re looking forward to expanding the program to veterans at other UH Lake Health facilities.”
UH Lake Health is looking for individuals to knit, crochet or quilt lap blankets for veteran patients. The blankets should be about 3 feet x 5 feet; done in red, white and blue; and can be any pattern or design; but must be smoke free and pet hair free.
For more information about the Veterans Visiting Veterans Volunteer Program, or to help make blankets, contact the UH Lake Health Volunteer Office at 440-354-1665.
Since the program began at TriPoint Medical Center in early 2019, five veteran volunteers have made over 1,200 patient visits and have given out over 400 gift bags with lap blankets.