World War II Purple Heart veteran Harry Donovan was only 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944. He survived multiple enemy encounters during seven different invasions in the Pacific. Sustained by his strong faith, he returned to civilian life a grateful man. But he never forgot – not stopped helping – other veterans.
“God has been good to me. Serving in the Navy was the proudest time of my life. I am honored to give back to other veterans,” says Mr. Donovan, who was instrumental in opening Valor Home for homeless veterans in Akron in 2013.
Through a $100,000 gift in 2014 from The Donovan Veterans Fund of Akron Community Foundation, Mr. Donovan and his wife, Fran, created the Harry and Fran Donovan Fund for Veteran Care at Summa. Helping Summa reach and treat more individuals who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of many ways the fund helps veterans.
“I think of trauma as having tentacles that can intrude into different areas of a patient’s life – psychological well-being, job performance, physical health, relationships,” says Patrick Palmieri, PhD. He is Director of the Summa Health Traumatic Stress Center – one of only a few of its kind in the nation.
“Educating health professionals to recognize trauma and its far-reaching effects is central to our mission,” says Joseph D. Varley, MD, Chair, Department of Psychiatry and holder of the Jim and Vanita Oelschlager Chair in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.
One veteran already benefitting from the program is Kelly Albrecht. Following 13 months of active duty in Iraq, the Kansas native developed PTSD and battled symptoms for almost eight years. When his wife’s career brought the family to Northeast Ohio, he turned to Summa. “I needed more than pills. I wanted to get to the root of the problem – to dive in and work it from the inside out.”
After only six weeks in the program, Mr. Albrecht and his wife, Stephanie, notice dramatic improvements. “I’m off all sleeping medication,” says the stay-at-home father. “I’m much better at handling crowded places. I’m more comfortable riding in vehicles and talking with strangers.
“Growing up, I was that guy who people came to for cheering up,” says Mr. Albrecht. “I want to get back to that.”
With help from Summa and through the Donovan’s support, he’s on his way.