Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A new volunteering opportunity

I spent about three hours yesterday overlooking the City of Portland from the VA hospital here. That was the length of time it took for administrative details and an orientation so that I could be a volunteer.
The hospital is quite large. As you can see in the picture, or perhaps not, it sits atop a hill on the SW side of Portland overlooking the river and that part of the city. It is an attractive structure. Not too far away is OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University) which is the place all the tough cases go. It would be like Ann Arbor to Michiganians. They call this section of town "Pill Hill." I see from some GVSU stuff we get that their footprint is enlarging in GR along with the addition of MSU School of Medicine. They are calling that part of Michigan avenue of GR "Health Hill." They both get the alliteration thing going with either the beginning sound or the ending sound. Well, enough "SMART" talk.
I signed on to be a patient visitor. Ninety percent of the patients are male, and of that 90% are from Vietnam era and before. So I fit in. To be here, you have to be a Vet. And from the time you walk in the front door you get the message... "We honor Vets."
The lone drawback for me is that it is 22 miles from here...which in traffic can take 45 minutes. Coming home yesterday I was about 30 minutes. Most of the volunteers are from around there and walk or ride the bus. The payoff is that most of these guys are lonely and forgotten. They come here from Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Idaho for treatment which means most cannot bring family with them. One of my roles will be to sit and chat and listen. I can do that. It helps to have been a vet since that breaks the barrier of whether or not you might have an agenda. Remember, the Vietnam Era made most of us skeptical about talking to civilians when we got out. That fear or feeling is deep rooted in most of these guys especially if they were "in country."
I go back Monday (that is, if they don't run my finger prints through the Fed's computer and find me to be a person of interest in some case or other) for my first solo round. I will let you know how that goes.


SLB said...

You are a great person!!

Dempsey said...

Special Agent Dempsey here. I'm curious why you think you might be a person of interest. Maybe we should have a little talk.