I first met Verl Fisher in early 2010 when I admitted him to hospice services. He was living at Dogwood Forest Assisted Living in Gainesville, Georgia, and was a beloved part of the community. One of the first statements I heard about Mr. Fisher was, “We’re not sure if he really wants hospice. He has already fired one.” I knew that I was in for an interesting visit.
When I entered his cozy room, the first things I noticed were all his pictures and medals on the walls. I realized then that I was in the presence of a World War II hero. Mr. Fisher was a B-17 pilot. Germans shot down his plane and kept him prisoner for 19 months. Mr. Fisher sat in a wheelchair as he told me his story, still out of breath despite oxygen flowing from a canister to his lungs. He was truly a survivor.
Hospice of NGMC assisted Dogwood Forest staff with Mr. Fisher’s care during the next few months, but his health declined in time. He was always just as determined however as he was the first day of care, just as much in control and knew what he wanted out of each day of life. He was not only my war hero but he became my life hero.
One day, without any warning, Mr. Fisher announced, “I’m flying home to Illinois.” I asked, “How are you going to do that?” He had it all planned. Mr. Fisher befriended a local pilot, Bob Williams, and a local physician, Dr. Rodney Smith, who would help him accomplish one of his last wishes. Mr. Fisher wanted to move back to his hometown, where he would be buried so his son could visit with him everyday.
So on an early morning in June 4, Mr. Fisher’s friends and family gathered at the Lee-Gilmer Memorial Airport to send our hero on another one of his adventures. Remember, Verl Fisher was a survivor, though some of us wondered if he would make it to Illinois in a small, two-engine plane. Dr. Smith and I reviewed all of Mr. Fisher’s emergency medications for anxiety, pain and shortness of breath.
On a personal note, I could not let my 8 year-old son, Daniel, miss this historic event. I told Daniel about Mr. Fisher’s heroic accomplishments, describing his life as one of determination even in the midst of imprisonment and illness. Daniel and I stood met Mr. Fisher at the airport that morning and stood on the runway with all the others, proudly holding our American flags and waving goodbye.
Our life hero, Verl Fisher, made it to Illinois without a problem. He lived for several more months, making new friends and visiting with the family he loved. Mr. Fisher always chose to live life to the fullest.