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People Using Technology to Help Veterans

August 1, 2012

My dad isn’t doing well. Actually, for a man 15 months from 80, he’s in decent shape… on paper, but like baseball statistics, the game of life isn’t played on paper. On Monday, we visited the Veteran’s Administration Clinic at “the Villages” in Florida. It’s a beautiful facility just in its sophomore season. It is loaded with modern technology, but in a service operation, it’s the people using the technology that deliver the experience.

The volunteer veteran “redshirts” greet you at the entrance of the 100,000 square foot facility, and immediately its scale becomes very personal. We chatted with the greeter on the way in. He played pro ball in the Phillies system, but lamented “I couldn’t hit the curve.” “Yeah, me neither, Sir.” As we walked away, he asked, “What position did you play?” I replied, “Guess.” “Catcher,” he said with a big smile. I’m not sure what gave that away…

After checking in with a simple magnetic card swipe, a nurse named “Ulsa” appeared and wheeled the vet into an exam room. Ulsa recorded his vitals into the VA computer system, all while pleasantly chatting up the old boy. Then we met Dad’s doctor. Dr. Mirta Cura-Lukich is Argentinean, and reminded me a bit of actress Sonia Braga, only a little older (just a little!), with thick, wide, black rimmed glasses. Her hair was wild and she spoke with a heavy accent, although I caught almost every word. She reviewed his recent medical history from the computer. It’s all there. Oh, and I’m sure she doesn’t smoke.

Then, she asked Dad how he was doing. His lackadaisical response triggered her. She knew just what to do, so she prodded him to “get out there,” and “live his life.” It was just the medicine I had hoped for… a good kick on the backside. Dr. Cura-Lukich was great. She listened well, and explained everything clearly. I think in spite of her take no prisoners approach with him, Dad likes her. From there, we had a 30 minute appointment with a Pharmacy Intern. “Christine,” I’m guessing, seemed a bit nervous, so I told Dad how we had interns at work, and how smart they all are. I hope that helped put her at ease. She did a great and thorough job, reviewing all of Dad’s meds and answering questions we had.

As I wheeled my father out through the bright, gleaming hallways, I thought about what a great experience we both had. Then at the front entrance, Dad got sick. Fortunately a pharmacy bag doubled as one of those bags they have on planes. Another “redshirt” appeared with wet paper towels, and after a few minutes, Dad was OK. Physically. The getting old thing is a bitch mentally, too.

So, while the technology at the Villages VA Clinic is impressive, the people, from the veteran volunteers to the medical staff, were just wonderful. They treated my veteran in a way I hope all veterans are treated… with dignity and respect.

Thank you.

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