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Day 114: The New Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Not long ago, Brian and I were asked by a client to help her find a tenant for her condo in Bethesda.  We gladly accepted and began heavily advertising the condo on the Internet, including posting a CraigsList ad.  One day, I received a reply to our CraigsList ad from a woman who suggested she would like to view the condo.  We met there and she seemed to like it.  She then asked if she could come again and, this time, bring her husband with her so they could make a final decision about it together.  She then explained that he was a wounded soldier who had fought in Iraq and suffered traumatic brain injury and that his speech and mobility was greatly limited.  They would be living in the area for at least a year while he was to undergo treatment and therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for his injuries.
At our next meeting, her husband joined us.  He had trouble walking and his speech was halted.  He could not write his name on the lease.  He seemed not to be able to think of the words he wanted to say and it was frustrating for him.  She explained to me how the two had been married not long before he left for Iraq.  But now everything had changed for them – their dreams of children, a home and a “normal life” were now gone.  Their life consisted of daily hospital visits for hours of physical therapy and numerous surgeries.  She served as his full-time nursemaid and would remain his life partner, but things would never be the same.  It was heart-wrenching.  I realized too that this couple represented only one of many families who are here in our area for treatment whose lives are forever changed as a result of their service in our military and the personal sacrifices they have made to protect and serve our country.
Drawing of the new WRNMMC

Prior to meeting that young couple, I had not known much about Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  But I did some research and came to learn that it provides comprehensive health care for more than 150,000 soldiers, other service members, family members and retirees.  Now Walter Reed is coming to Bethesda. 

Our National Naval Medical Center is currently located on Wisconsin Ave in Bethesda and the property will soon house the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).  The $900 million dollar project currently underway is expected to be completed in September 2011 and will bring 2,200 new staff, 725,000 square feet of space, a 939-car, nine-story parking garage and over 400,000 square feet of renovation in 46 departments of the existing hospital.

The name will remain Walter Reed in honor of Major Reed who opened the Army Medical School in 1893.  According to Bernard S. Little in his article of Sept. 16th, 2010, “Maj. Walter Reed, (was) born Sept. 13, 1851 in Belroi, Virginia, as an accomplished combat surgeon who cared for the wounded, ill and injured on the western battlefield; one of the world’s expert in infectious diseases; and a physician skilled in obstetrics and pediatrics (so much so that he delivered and cared for his own children when he and his wife Emile were posted on the western frontier).  The training of the military healers is another of Maj. Walter Reed’s legacy, …Reed was one of the first four professors of the Army Medical School when it opened in 1893.”

Bethesda Art-Deco Naval Hospital Tower

As the transition of the new WRNMMC opens on the birth month of Major Reed, Bethesda’s legacy as a place of healing will continue.  More and more of our country’s war veterans will find their care and temporary home here in Bethesda while undergoing treatment and therapy for their war injuries.

In the new Center, post-traumatic stress disorders, traumatic brain injuries, prosthetic enhancements and other war-related injuries will be skillfully handled by trained doctors.  The architecture of the new buildings will reflect the art-deco style of the older National Naval Medical Center tower which is itself listed in the National Register of Historic Places.   

While it is terribly sad and tragic to see the lives of our soldiers and their families so irreparably devastated by their injuries while in service to our country, I am pleased that our town can offer them a place of healing and rest.  As the transition of the WRNNMC is completed later this year, I hope our Bethesda residents and business owners will reflect upon the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and their families and think of ways we can make them feel welcomed here.  Let’s show them our sincere gratitude during their time in our town while they work through their recovery and transition to their new lives.    ~Amy

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