Heart Behind the House, Dr. Hollins

By: Ashley Estill
August 19, 2015

The latest feature of Heart Behind the House highlights Dr. Dennis Hollins of the Charlie Norwood VA Hospital. He created a unique program that supports active duty and veterans rehabilitate. Dr. Hollins witnesses first-hand the support family provides in the healing process.

When Dr. Dennis Hollins, Chief of the Rehabilitation Medicine service at the Charlie Norwood VA in Augusta, Georgia, had the opportunity to take a group of Vietnam veterans through his unique rehab unit, he asked the group if they had any questions. After a moment of silence, one veteran spoke up and said, “You know, it’s about time.” According to Dr. Hollins, these veterans felt that their experiences had taught this nation how to treat heroes today.

“Our experiences in Vietnam won this level of care for these soldiers,” Dr. Hollins said. “Instead of feeling resentful, they embraced it.”

As a result of a grateful nation embracing our service members – and their families, Dr. Hollins was presented a unique opportunity in 2003. He created an active duty rehab unit from scratch to help service members coming back from the current conflicts. After a short time, a facility was designed that served not only active duty members, but veterans as well, in one all-encompassing program at the Charlie Norwood VA.

Dr. Hollins’ program includes a spinal cord unit, state-of-the-art gym, drivers rehabilitation, blind therapy and other networks for therapy that include occupational and speech therapy, psychiatry, psychology, neuropsychology, nutrition and social work. 

While loved ones rehab, they can take comfort in knowing their families are close by. The 20-suite Fisher House on the Augusta campus is within eyesight of the hospital.

 One family the house served was the Hale family. Kelly Hale is a mother of two, and stayed at the Fisher House while her husband recovered at the hospital An Explosive Ordinance Disposal technician, her husband Aaron Hale was working on diffusing an IED in Afghanistan when it suddenly exploded in his face. Aaron lost his eyesight and now has difficulty hearing. His positivity remained high as he had the support of his family throughout his recovery process.

“We’ve been in five different hotels and it makes such a difference being in the Fisher House,” Kelly said. “You just feel at home.”

Dr. Hollins knows how much the Fisher House fuels the rehab of his patients. 

“These guys have been out of the country for eight or nine months and now they’re back,” he said. “They’re supposed to focus on themselves, but they can’t. They’ve got a spouse, or a family, so they’re worried about then. But now, not only do they know where their family is. But they’re in a wonderful place. It’s within walking distance. It’s right here.”