Mom and sons heal together at Fisher House

After Roxane Ramos-Suarez learned her son had been seriously injured when his Navy vessel was in an accident, she traveled 3,000 miles to be with him in Seattle, Washington. There was no way she was leaving his side. She knew he couldn’t be alone.

Roxane Ramos-Suarez was at home in Chesapeake, Virginia, on January 19, 2023, when she received the call that no parent ever wants to hear. Her son Riccardo, a Navy master-at-arms based out of Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton, Washington, had been injured in an accident while on patrol aboard a Navy safety vessel. The accident caused the boat to sink and Riccardo was underwater for three minutes until he was rescued and resuscitated. Roxane knew immediately that she had to get to her son.

“Please don’t leave him alone,” she told his Navy chief. “Tell him I’m on the way. You’ve got to tell him that.”

Roxane traveled 3,000 miles to be by her son’s bedside in Seattle, Washington. There was no way she was leaving him alone.

“I was sleeping and bathing in my son's room for the first couple of days,” she recalled.

Riccardo’s injuries were severe and required multiple surgeries. It would take a long time for him to heal. She knew she could not continue to stay in the hospital for long, but hotel prices were too high. Then one of the staff at Madigan Army Medical Center found a solution. She suggested the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Army Fisher House.

“She called and said, ‘Well, we're going to put you in this place,’” she said. “I don't know what I expected, but when I got there, I was in complete awe. And I said, ‘Riccardo, this feels like home.’”

Roxane had recently lost her husband, Charles, so she and her two sons, Riccardo and Cordero, were still mourning his loss. The close-knit family had just celebrated their first Christmas together without him. Then Riccardo went back to Washington while his older brother, also in the Navy, went back to Texas, where he was stationed at the time.

After the accident, Cordero took leave to help care for his brother when he was well enough to leave the hospital and stay at Fisher House. Roxane explained that in the beginning Riccardo struggled with the worry and stress associated with how his injury would affect him.

“I said, ‘Your brother's in bad shape,’” Roxane told Cordero. “What I need from you is, I need you to bring him back.”
Cordero helped Riccardo shower and dress. He encouraged his brother to leave the bedroom that he hadn’t left since arriving at the Fisher House and join them in the kitchen, where Roxane wanted to create a sense of normalcy for her boys.

“I said, ‘Okay, I'll cook you guys breakfast,’” she said. “So, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is like home.’ It felt like Sunday morning at our house, because on Sunday morning at our house, we used to have breakfast. My husband always cooked breakfast for all of us. So, I made eggs and bacon and the whole bit. They came out, we sat down, and we ate.”
Over their meal, they shared stories of Charles and laughed together.

“I thought, ‘This place is beautiful,’ and in my mind, I'm saying 'This is going to be a place of healing for everything for me, for him, and for my oldest son who was so worried about his brother,’” she said.

Having his brother and mother with him made a huge impact. When Cordero returned to duty, Riccardo ventured out of his room more and was better able to take care of himself. He and Roxane enjoyed sitting in the living room while watching TV and getting to know other guests. Oftentimes, guests shared their military experiences or personal journeys. Roxane also helped with some of the housekeeping as a way to give back and say thank you. One of Roxane’s favorite memories had to do with guests who had already left Fisher House.

Each Fisher House keeps journals in the rooms so guests can share their stories. Sometimes, they say thank you; other times, they tell longer stories about their journeys. As Roxane and Riccardo read through the journal in their room, she was moved to tears.

“It was like they left it for me,” she shared. “I started reading them to him, and we got through a few of them. And I said, ‘Oh my God, well, I will have to write. I'll write our story in there. I'll leave a message.’”

Riccardo had a rough recovery and was in incredible pain, which broke Roxane’s heart, but he was strong and showed that he wouldn’t give up his dream of public service. She encouraged her son and believed in him.

“I said, you are going to get back up on your feet, and whatever it takes, it's gonna happen,” she said.

His injuries have not stopped his motivation and desire to serve, just like his father, who was in the Air Force, and his older brother. Before joining the military, Riccardo was a volunteer firefighter. Now, he aspires to become a law enforcement officer.

When Roxane and Riccardo left the Fisher House three months later, she wrote down her story just as other Fisher House guests had done.

“And I started writing it. I just started writing from the inception because something like this takes you back. It's like you almost see your whole life flash in front of you, and it's been a path. All of a sudden, it's like a ‘let it go’ thing. It's kind of connecting the dots to now, you see. Not to an end result because it's not the end yet.”

“It's been such an emotional journey with me, with Fisher House. It's the journey that I'll never forget. It's part of my life,” she said. “It's not just room and board. You know? It's the holistic part of it. I think it has a lot to do with the people that are in the house. That team out there at Fisher House, they were so nurturing, and they were so caring. Fisher House has become a new part of me. I can't repay this. I can't repay this, what Fisher House has done for us.”