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VA volunteer Beverly Turner had just completed orientation on her first day at the H.J. Heinz campus in Pittsburgh when she saw a man in the cafeteria trying to communicate with a hearing-impaired female Veteran. He was waving his arms, loudly asking her, “What color is your truck?” The Veteran waved back to him, uttering something unrecognizable. From across the room, Turner called out, “I know sign language!”
The Veteran wheeled to Turner and signed, “I need help; I need to find my truck so I can go home.” Turner responded, “I can help you.”
They headed to the parking lot, and finally found the Veteran’s truck, but the woman was too weak to climb inside. So, the volunteer flagged down a nurse, who helped her into the front seat. The Veteran looked relieved and started to cry.
Turner signed, “What’s the matter?” The Veteran responded that this was the first time that she could communicate with anyone since her traumatic brain injury many years ago. “How did it happen?” Turner asked. The woman signed back, “A blast. I am the only survivor,” she signed. “I’m the only lucky one ... at least I am alive.” They both smiled. Turner responded, “Yes, thank God.”
Two years later, in a VA hospital lobby in Pittsburgh, Turner turned around and saw the Veteran again. The Veteran said that she still drove to Pittsburgh from Ohio, and was getting better because of the speech therapy she received at VA. She also was receiving treatments for her legs and TBI. Turner also noticed the improvement of the Veteran’s signing skills. Both women beamed, ear to ear, and said their goodbyes… in sign language, of course.
There are great things happening at VA every day that make a real difference for Veterans.