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Durham VA Medical Center

 

Veteran flies high with FSU women athletes

Durham VA Veteran receives wish of meeting Florida State University's women's basketball team

Vietnam-era Veteran Frances "Frankie" Holland meets the Florida State University women's basketball team as part of Durham VA's program to fulfill the final wish of hospice patients.

By Paul Brown
Thursday, February 23, 2017

Last month, Durham VA hospice patient Frances “Frankie” Holland, firmly planted in her wheelchair, was flying high. Holland is a Woman’s Army Corps Veteran who served during the Vietnam War era. She is also a longtime fan of the Florida State University (FSU) women’s basketball team.

During a visit from her Nurse Practitioner, Michaelene Moore, Holland mentioned her decade’s old loyalty to Florida’s basketball squad and her desire to attend an upcoming game between her favorite team and its North Carolina opponent, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Due to her condition, Holland knew she could not endure the 40-minute game.

Moore was sympathetic and committed to honoring the Veteran’s final wish. She contacted recreational therapy employee Erica Dickens to see what could be done. The office, housed in the medical center’s Community Living Center, spearheads an effort to fulfill hospice patients final wish.

Between Moore, Dickens, FSU, UNC, the N.C. American Legion Auxiliary and the VA’s Voluntary Services office, Holland got the next best thing to being at the FSU game.

The Florida women had a one-hour practice session in Chapel Hill just hours before their game. Dickens contacted the FSU staff who issued Holland a warm welcome to attend. UNC’s staff made sure the visit happened.

“When we got there, we were treated like kings,” Dickens said. “Nurse Practitioner Moore and I escorted Frankie to the Carmichael Arena, where she was able to speak with Coach Sue [Semrau] for about 10 minutes before practice began and was then invited courtside to watch practice. The coaches were so kind. The staff came over, spoke with Frankie at length, and shared with us about their team. They listened as Frankie and even shared stories of similar places they enjoyed in Florida. Frankie was so content and grinning ear to ear the whole time.”

After practice, Coach Sue invited Frankie out onto midcourt, where she participated in the final moments of practice. She was invited into the team huddle, introduced to the team, and had the opportunity to share some of her stories with the team as well.

Holland relished the visit. “We had so much fun,” she said.

A WAC clerical technician from 1969 to 1971, she played basketball and softball in her younger years -- and remembers when she was in high school in High Point playing pick-up basketball with a friend of Semrau’s, legendary N.C. State University’s women’s coach, Kay Yow. After her discharge, she lived in Florida for more than 20 years. It is where she became an FSU fan. She has followed Semrau’s career since her FSU debut in the early 1990s. “She’s a fantastic coach,” said Holland. “She brought that team from the bottom to the NCAA nationals.”

At the end of the team practice, Holland was presented with an FSU Veteran’s Day T-shirt and a basketball signed by the team. They even promised her a win in the UNC game that night.

Holland’s is not the first wish that the Durham VA staff has granted. Abena Jones-Boone, also in the recreational therapy office, helped start the effort about four years ago. Since then, the Recreational Therapy office has worked with the American Legion Auxiliary, which provides funding, and the Voluntary Services office to grant end-of-life wishes to Veterans. “Wishes have ranged from a New Year’s champagne toast for a husband and his wife; Thanksgiving dinner in October for a Veteran and his estranged siblings mere hours before the Veteran passed; to providing a final meal of a hamburger and a milkshake,” said Jones-Boone.

Of her visit, Holland said, “They were even more than what I expected.” True to their word, the FSU women kept their promise. They defeated UNC that night by a score of 90 to 77.

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