This afternoon I spent my first time working as a volunteer for the VA Hospital in Livermore. I received a phone call from someone in their Social Services Department earlier this week, asking if I would be able to accompany one of the Veterans off campus to go shopping. I made the time and was happy to do it. When I spoke with the person from the Social Services Department, I didn’t know what to expect. I have had no formal training, other than an orientation video; I didn’t know what building to go to and the Social Director told me that this Veteran, would be in a wheelchair and likes to play mind games. I was expecting a Veteran from the Desert Storm campaign who is bitter about being confined to a wheelchair.
I am happy that I made sure to arrive a half-hour before our appointed time. I went to the Volunteer Services office to clock in; I was told that I didn’t need to do that, there would be a binder for me to sign in at the nurse’s station. So I went to the nurse’s station in that building only to see that there were no binders. When I asked the lady at the counter, she informed me that I was probably in the wrong building and that I needed to go to the building on the farthest side of the campus. So I walked up the hill to building 90; I went in looked around the lobby area for a sign or something that would direct me to the nurse’s station. There was none. So I walked into the cafeteria where two older gentlemen told me that the nurse’s station was down the hall to the right. Thank you gentlemen, it was much appreciated. So I found the nurse’s station and checked in. I was given the Veteran’s room number, but decided that I would go see if our Dial A Ride van had showed up yet. It hadn’t, ( it must be run by a government employee); back inside to see if my Vet was ready to go. There was a new person at the nurse’s station, she said that she would go down to the room and check on our patient. He was in the middle of an interview and would be out as soon as that was over. Perfect, I went back outside to wait for the van.
After about 10 minutes of waiting outside, I went back in to the nurse’s station and the Vet that I was accompanying was just checking out. He was an older gentleman, rather portly and in a wide wheelchair that I had to push. I told him that the van had not arrived yet, but if he wanted, I would be happy to take him outside, where the view was better, while we waited. He agreed. If you have never been to the Livermore VA Hospital, it sits up on a hill, overlooking Sycamore Park and the Olivina Vineyards. It has a lot of lawn space and open fields. There are wild turkeys and families of deer, just walking around the campus. Yes, waiting outside is much better than waiting inside. Finally the van arrived, about twenty minutes late, (I still think that it is run by a government employee), and the ramp was too narrow for the wheelchair. So I took the Veteran back into the hospital where the switched him into an electric wheelchair. If you can picture a Lark, this thing was a Hummer compared to that.
Long story short, we went shopping for some new clothes and shoes for him. I found out that he was celebrating six years of being clean and sober and that his father was in the military as well. He did not have to serve in Vietnam because his father was already there, serving in the 6th Calvary unit. I did not encounter any mind games. I encountered a gentleman who needed to get away for an afternoon, who was truly appreciative of me, taking my time to go shopping with him. We had a great afternoon and I am sure that even though I probably broke a rule or two, I am looking forward to doing it again.
I am Grateful that I am able to do this service for the Veteran’s that have served our country and I am grateful that I do not work for a government facility or department. I would go crazy not being able to train someone properly or give informative communication.