Dave Hines states it flatly: “Coming here to DCVETS literally saved my life.”
He backs up and remembers: “It was a lifestyle of bad decision-making, bad diets, bad girlfriends, bad environments, bad neighborhoods and a lot of bad attitudes that made me the wreck that I was.”
Hines, a boyish-looking 56 and a former Marine, is accustomed to being candid. But not in a gruff way. His way summons up introspection, a willingness to learn from past mistakes, and an inner determination to move his life forward through self-improvement and focused efforts.
Suffering from obesity and Diabetes, Hines began making lifestyle course-corrections before coming to DCVETS. Smoking stopped. Drinking stopped. But chronic depression lingered.
“That’s when I discovered that when you sit still, worry and do nothing, you die,” says Hines. He enrolled in the VA’s MOVE and LIVe programs and benefited from their rehab and therapy components. Designed by the VA’s National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, MOVE is a weight management program that relies on physical therapy (including the use of pools), dieticians and support groups to encourage “eat right” principles. The LIVe program features a holistic approach to treating diabetes that includes exercise, diet, art and music therapy, stress management and spiritual support.
“You have to keep moving. I’m always striving to learn.”
A high school grad and a Strayer University student, he, early on, developed an interest in computer technology. In the 80’s, Hines became a Wang Labs field service worker who repaired Wang computers under government contract. He did this for five years. As the years passed, he decided to stop punching clocks and become an entrepreneur – but he never lost his love for computers.
After several high-flying years as owner of a network of vendor tables placed in high-tourist areas, money dried up and Hines couldn’t make his rent.
“I began sputtering out,” he recalls. A savvy VA placement specialist sized him up precisely and sent him to DCVETS. While there Hines faced a health crisis that ironically changed his life for the better because he was in the right place at the right time.
While in residence at DCVETS, Hines was hit with a health issue tsunami! First, arthritis in his knees became so painful and his legs so sapped of strength, braces were required for both legs (he still wears them). His next crisis involved a serious bout with pneumonia and a prescribed CAT scan that, to his horror, revealed a malignant tumor on his kidney. Hines went under the knife and lost a disease-ravaged kidney.
“Without this program, I’d be dead,” declares Hines, “because out there in the streets my life-threatening health issues would never have been diagnosed and dealt with. For the first time in my life I was not only allowed, but encouraged, to take the time to focus on my health issues.”
During his stay at DCVETS, Hines also found time to return to computer school, teach a computer class for seniors, clean up his bad credit rating and nail down a full-time IT tech job refurbishing computers at Phoenix Computers in Rockville, MD.
“I’ve saved money and I stay perpetually busy because this environment allows your mind to soar in discovering ways to help yourself. The people here plug you in to contacts and programs that show you how to make it on your own,” says Hines. In pulling up stakes and moving out to his new apartment, Hines makes a military parallel: “DCVETS teaches us to fight…fight for our life.