At the 80 or so Fisher Houses near military and VA medical centers across the US and Europe, families can stay close to their military or veteran loved one during a hospitalization. Since the beginnings of Fisher House Foundation in 1990, hundreds of families have benefited from this free, temporary housing, helping them to focus as a family on getting better.
At the Alaska Fisher House, located near Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson in Anchorage, families and patients have the added challenge of light – or lack thereof. Living in the far northern US means experiencing less than six hours of sunlight during the winter months. Science has shown the connection between lack of exposure to sunshine and poor human health, including vitamin D deficiencies, winter blues, and seasonal affective disorder.
Billy Chisum, Onsite Customer Service Representative at Elmendorf-Richardson for Cardinal Health, a 10-year Air Force veteran with three combat deployments behind him, and a Resurrecting Lives Foundation veteran ambassador, led the charge to bring therapy lights to the Alaska Fisher House. Chisum himself benefited from light therapy provided by RLF and last year worked with RLF to distribute 20 lights to veterans in the Elmendorf-Richardson community.
Earlier this year, through RLF and Cardinal Health, Chisum brought 10 more Philips lights to the Alaska Fisher House, to place in the guest bedrooms so that families can feel at their best. “We are grateful to have received the lights provided by Cardinal Health as an amenity to provide Fisher House guests to use during their stay,” said Jenny Hall, Manager of the Alaska Fisher House. “With the limited daylight during winter nights in Alaska, this is a perfect gift to offer our guests to aid in the healing and recovery process.”
Last year’s veteran light recipients – including some recovering from TBI or PTSD – saw steady improvement in their moods by using the lights. “I get a lot of positive feedback from [these] individuals,” said Chisum. “Calmly waking up with a natural heart rate vs. an alarm clock, people seem to be in better moods than years past without the dawn simulator. Improvements to sleep/wake cycles were reported by many. People feel less groggy and ready to start the day more alert.”
RLF salutes Chisum, and many other Anchorage volunteers, who work with the veteran community to help those that suffer with PTSD and TBI. Shown here are volunteers at several holiday fundraisers for Alaska Fisher House.
Chrisanne Gordon, MD
Founder, Resurrecting Lives Foundation