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Move of hospitalized veterans eased by surprise celebration Some patients transferred to new center by Humvees


The VA Maryland Health Care System turned a potentially traumatic move across the city into a family celebration for 44 hospitalized veterans yesterday.

The veterans, wearing white baseball caps that said, "On the Move -- August 4, 1996," were leaving the Fort Howard Nursing Home Care Unit in eastern Baltimore County for the last time.

Four military units, which undertook the move as a training exercise, helped the veterans into five Humvee vehicles and three buses equipped for wheelchair use and took them on a 40-minute ride to a new home on old grounds.

Unbeknown to the patients, spouses and family members were awaiting them at the 120-bed VA Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center on Loch Raven Boulevard. It used to be the Baltimore VA Medical Center, which is now on Greene Street downtown.

The surprise welcome "was a mixture of emotions," tears and embraces, said Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman R. David Edwards. "It was very, very lovely."

After escorting the veterans to their rooms and giving them fresh flowers, family members joined the patients for a dinner of filet mignon.

"We tried to make it as enjoyable as possible," Edwards said.

The Fort Howard facility, which closed yesterday after the move, opened in 1932.

The Loch Raven Boulevard center will offer specialized treatment for patients with Alzheimer's disease and other conditions that afflict elderly patients.

Edwards estimated that at least 25 percent of the patients will need the specialized treatment.

Pub Date: 8/05/96

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