Construction begins for first AZ Fisher House

Construction begins for first AZ Fisher House

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Construction is underway for Arizona's first Fisher House.

This morning, there will be an official groundbreaking ceremony on the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System's campus.

The 13,000 plus square foot facility will be a 'home away from home' for military families while their loved one receives treatment.

It will be specifically for those who live 50 miles or more away from the Tucson area.

Wounded U.S. Army veteran Mary Herrera lives in Tucson, but knows all too well how a Fisher House can help. She and her family stayed in one for about four months in San Antonio while she received treatment for her injuries.

She said without the help from the Fisher House, it would've been too expensive for her family who had to travel from Yuma to be there to support her in person.

"I mean financially, who can live out of a hotel for an extended period of time?" she asked.

She added the Fisher House is more than just a building. "It helps you to heal. It gives you that boost. You need your parents or spouses or kids to tell you everything is going to be alright."

Back in 2003, while deployed as military police in Iraq, she was on a routine mission with an American convoy when she and her crew got ambushed by enemy gunfire.

Herrera was shot in the bicep and forearm.

"The round that went through my forearm completely destroyed everything," she said. "The only thing attaching my hand to the rest of my arm was skin."

She thought the doctors would have to amputate, but they didn't. The VA in Texas specialized in reconstructive arm surgery.

There are a total of 64 Fisher Houses worldwide. Rick Grinnell, Vice Chairman of the Arizona Fisher House Foundation told Tucson News Now it's an honor that Tucson gets to join the list.

"This VA Hospital is incredible," said Grinnell. "The services it provides families and the availability of long-term rehab programs like the polytrauma service center, the traumatic brain injury rehab program, hearing and visually impaired as well as prosthetics."

In 2014, SAVAHCS treated more than 8,000 in patients, performed over 5,100 surgeries and completed an excess of 680,000 outpatient visits.

Grinnell added the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System sees about 2,500 out-of-town patients a year.

The Arizona Fisher House is expected to take from nine months to a year to complete.

In the meantime, Arizona Fisher House Manager, Kelly Laurich is already looking for volunteers and ideas to help operate the facility. She hopes to maintain 20-40 volunteers a week.

"We will need people to come in and cook meals, spend time with the families, groups to do yard work, maintenance, support groups during the holidays," said Laurich."I'm pretty open to anything. Any type of service you can provide to a family, please contact me at 520-838-3680 or kelly.laurich@va.gov."

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