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Nancy Fichtner's SAVE Award Story

Nancy Fichtner, a VA employee from Grand Junction, CO, reports on the experience of winning the first annual SAVE Award and delivering her winning idea of letting VA patients take home their unused medication to the President.

My invitation to the White House became the adventure of my life.  I felt like a character out of the Mrs. Pollifax books.

With DC airports shutting down and December 21st being declared a snow day for Federal employees we had our challenges, but everyone pulled together and come Monday morning my children and I had an opportunity to meet President Obama and Secretary Shinseki.

First we arrived at the VA to meet with Secretary Shinseki. What a joy it was to meet him.  We took our pictures with him, and he sat down and talked to us.  He talked to my son about the military (my son Alex had his ROTC uniform on) and my daughter sang Amazing Grace for him.  He was moved.  So on to the White House, and meeting the President.

What a moment in time! I came into where the President was and he came and shook my hand.  I was not nervous, just amazed that this was really happening.  He just started talking to me about my family, the VA, my children and elk hunting.  I had to tell him about Kasey Ann skinning and gutting her own elk and how on her last hunt she wore flip flops.  He laughed.  He was so very easy to talk to.  He was genuine, such a nice and kind person. 

We then went into a room filled with TV cameras and reporters.  What an experience!  The President talked about health care, the VA, my idea, and wanted to know where my children were in the room.  He talked about my children being avid hunters. Afterwards, we then went into another room where the President met my children.  He was very appreciative that Alex, my son, is going into the military.  I told him Kasey Ann would sing for him.  So he turned his ear to her and she sang Amazing Grace.  What a great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her. He teased her about hunting in her flip flops! They laughed and enjoyed the fun of it. The day was over before we knew it.

This trip was a Christmas present beyond all.  I still think it was a lot for a little idea, but it really will save a lot of money and I am so glad to be a part of it.  I can’t wait to see my idea come full circle.  Thank you to all the people that made this experience a reality for me and my family. Lasting memory:  Kasey Ann is still talking about his handshake.  She said he really knew how to shake your hand and hold onto it like he truly was interested in you and what you had to say.

Nancy Fichtner is a Fiscal Program Support Clerk at the Grand Junction, Colorado Veterans Affairs Medical Center.  She was the winner of the first annual SAVE Award.