Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center
VA Augusta champions Army family during cancer battle
August 31, 2018
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center was put in the spotlight Aug. 30 showcasing how it is supporting an Army family get through an incredibly difficult time.
Forces United, formerly Augusta Warrior Project, celebrated its name change with a ceremony at the Miller Theater in downtown Augusta, Ga. During the ceremony, attended by Medical Center Director Dr. Robin E. Jackson, Forces United invited Molly Highberger, as well her husband, retired Army Warrant Officer 2 James Highberger, to the stage.
The Highberger family was upended when James discovered he had cancer in multiple areas of his body, including his brain and abdomen. According to a GoFundMe site to help funds the family’s expenses, “ … one of the tumors in his brain is very large and is causing the brain to ‘neglect’ the left side of his body. He has brief moments of blindness and that seems to be his most terrifying moments through this all. His hand has clawed up and Molly massages him, stretches and bends the joints trying to keep him going through the treatments.”
James retired from the Army with four combat tours, two in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. He was also assigned 18 months in South Korea.
During the flurry of activities to oversee James’ health and keep the family on track (which have included filing for bankruptcy protection, having relatives watch the younger children and more), Forces United connected Molly with the VA Augusta Transitional Care Unit and Reggie Harrison to fill our claim paperwork.
“The only thing I knew about a DD-214 was that it was important. Reggie walked me through everything and helped me through the difficult tasks that I just wasn’t able to focus on. That man knows his stuff,” Molly said of Harrison during the ceremony. “Thank you, Reggie.”
Forces United also worked with VA to get Molly to find her a room at the Fisher House. Previously, Molly had been bunking on “that hard, plastic recliner” in her husband’s hospital room in the local area as he underwent treatment. Working with Fisher House Manager Courtney Deese and VA Augusta Chief of Voluntary Services Bob Frasier, Forces United secured a room on the Uptown VA campus. This eliminated a daily 40-mile commute.
“The Fisher House is the place I retreat to at night where I drop my shoulders, have a long cry in the shower, and get the rest I need so I can be my husband’s personal warrior the next day in treatment,” Molly said.
On stage from his wheelchair, James thanked Forces United for the work it had done with his family. "You have given me the ability to leave a legacy to them as opposed to a burden, and I appreciate that very much,” he said.
Frasier said he and his team were humbled to be part of this effort to help the Highbergers meet the challenges they are facing.
“We’re honored to have her at the Fisher House, and proud the VA is part of this journey with the family as it goes forward,” Frasier said.
Medical Center Director Jackson said the effort his people put into supporting the Highbergers is one of the reasons Veterans choose VA for their care.
“Charlie Norwood employees are passionate when opportunities to serve our Veterans present themselves. I’m proud of the assistance they were able to provide and the care they have given, and my team will continue to serve the Highbergers in any capacity we are able,” Jackson said. “Veterans choose VA every day for these very reasons.”
The GoFundMe site is located at https://www.gofundme.com/james-w-highberger. You can also contact Forces United at (706) 951-7506.
About Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center
Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center is a two-division, three Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) medical center providing tertiary care in medicine, surgery, neurology, psychiatry, rehabilitation medicine, and spinal cord injury. The Downtown Division is authorized 156 beds (58 medicine, 27 surgery, and 71 spinal cord injury). The Uptown Division, located approximately three miles away, is authorized 93 beds (68 psychiatry, 15 blind rehabilitation and 10 rehabilitation medicine). In addition, a 132-bed Restorative/Nursing Home Care Unit and a 60-bed Domiciliary are located at the Uptown Division. The medical center serves as a network resource for the treatment of spinal cord injury, blind rehabilitation, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychiatry patients. The facility employs about 2,400 people from around the region and sees about 46,000 Veterans each fiscal year with a budget of more than $400 million. It is part of Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 7, located in Atlanta, along with seven other medical facilities in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The three CBOCs are in Aiken, S.C.; Athens and Statesboro, Ga.
About the Fisher House at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center
The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center Fisher House in Augusta, Ga., is "a home away from home" for families of Veterans and military service members receiving care at the medical center. The Fisher House enables families to be close to their loved ones during hospitalization by providing comfortable lodging, in a beautiful and relaxing setting, on the grounds of the Uptown Division of VA Augusta. Families stay at the Fisher House for free except for food. The VA Augusta Fisher House consists of one full-time manager, one assistant manager, and one housekeeper all employed by the VA. The VA Augusta Fisher House relies on community donations and volunteer support to maintain the home. The VA Augusta Fisher House is a 16,800-square foot home with 20 private guest suites. Each guest suite has its own bed and bathroom with a shower. Other amenities include a common kitchen, laundry room, spacious dining room, living room with a library and a family room with a library of various games and a large flat screen television.