Disabled Vet Gets New Billet
Family Soon to Call Wilder Home
Susan Triplett sweeps up dust and debris while working with Habitat for Humanity to prepare her new home in Wilder. During basic training, Triplett suffered heatstroke that caused rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscle fiber is released into the bloodstream causing kidney and liver damage. She is now involved in the Women Veterans Task Force, a support group at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction while also pursuing a master’s degree in health care administration. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
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Susan Triplett, shoves a piece of flooring into a Dumpster outside the home she hopes to move into with her two sons in late October. The house was built in Wilder by Habitat for Humanity in 2004 and re-purchased by the organization. The organization is upgrading its air exchange system, insulation, and improving the condition of the interior. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Susan Triplett prepares to patch a hole in the ceiling at her new home in Wilder. She is required by Habitat for Humanity to provide 500 hours of work toward the completion of the renovation. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Veterans Juanita Paynter, left, and Susan Triplett work together to remove flooring from Triplett’s future home. The two became friends through the Women Veterans Task Force at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
After talking with her son Nathan, 10, on the telephone during a break from work on her home, Susan Triplett hands the phone over to Wilder neighbors Aaron Blanchard, 11, center, and Nate Johnson, 11. Triplett, a single mother of two, is happy that her son will have a welcoming neighborhood to move into when their house is completed. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hartford — For a disabled veteran and her family, Halloween will be even sweeter than usual this year. By the time the holiday rolls around, Susan Triplett and her boys, ages 4 and 10, should be settled into their new home, a cozy three-bedroom place in Wilder. For Triplett, who served in a supply unit in the Air National Guard, the neighborhood’s friendly vibe is at least as exciting as the house itself.
The past four months have found Triplett, 36, working alongside volunteers to renovate the Habitat for Humanity house on Hollow Drive. She’s been cutting wallboard, pulling up carpets, “stuff that I’ve never done before,” she said.
Triplett became disabled during a guard training exercise. Because she wasn’t drinking enough water, she developed rhabdomyolysis, a sometimes-fatal condition characterized by muscle deterioration. Her liver collapsed, her kidneys were failing and she had “a lot of muscle damage,” she said. She spent weeks in intensive care and received physical therapy for a year. Now, she still needs to pace herself.
“I have to make sure drink enough water and physically not exert myself way too much,” she said. “I get really weak and then I’m no good.”
Jim Masland, site supervisor of Upper Valley Habitat for Humanity, has been working at the site for a couple of months. Masland said it’s been great working with Triplett on the house, which now has upgraded insulation. Volunteers from Hypertherm and the VA have also pitched in, along with local students.
Dartmouth College supplies quite a lot of Saturday volunteers, Masland said.
A Burlington native, Triplett is working toward a master’s degree in health care administration through Franklin Pierce University. As part of her studies, she volunteers two days a week at the women’s care center at the White River Junction VA Medical Center. Eventually, she hopes to work at the medical center.
Being in administration would allow her to be “more of a driving force” in ensuring veterans receive the best possible care, she said. “I want to give back.”
Triplett recently joined the women veteran’s task force. The group, which is separate from the VA, advocates for female and male veterans. In addition to focusing on medical care, it also promotes social bonds among veterans.
“It’s for our brothers and sisters. When they need something … let’s all get together and help out,” said Kathleen Martin-Bonhaus, who co-chairs the task force, adding that they planned to recruit veterans to help with Triplett’s house.
Triplett and her sons live in a rented two-bedroom condominium “way up on a mountain” in Quechee. It’s an hour’s drive to Dothan Brook School, where Nathan, 10, is a student. On a limited income, paying for child care and a place to live has been a stretch.
“Rent is very expensive around here,” she said. “It was consuming everything.”
The details are still being worked out, but the mortgage will be cheaper than renting, Triplett said. And there are a bunch of other pluses, too. Their new place has three bedrooms — one for each of them — and a playroom for the boys. It’s much closer to Dothan Brook School, and several kids Nathan’s age live in the neighborhood.
“I think it’s going to be really good for us,” she said.
Even so, the idea of being a first-time homeowner makes her a little nervous.
“If anything goes wrong, it’s just me,” Triplett said. But on a recent workday, she started to feel more at ease.
“All the kids came by and welcomed me to the neighborhood,” she said. A friend introduced her to a neighbor — a fellow veteran and single mother — and they talked about swapping child care. And a couple down the street offered to lend her tools or help out if she needs a hand.
“I feel like I’m going to finally have this little community,” said Triplett, who has no family locally.
“I’ve never had that. I’ve always been on my own.”
Aimee Caruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3210.