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Tracy Begins His Journey Back to the 'Real World'

August 13, 1991|TAMARA JONES and MARLENE CIMONS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Starting with 52 Americans who had been held by the Iranian revolutionaries in Tehran throughout 1980, a total of 115 ex-hostages have passed through Freedom Hall over the last 10 years.

Tracy is staying in one of two suites furnished in a homey, non-hospital style in anticipation of just such a guest. A color television set and copies of Reader's Digest condensed books provide entertainment.

"It's a break along the way, a good chance to catch their breath and start the transition to normalcy," said Capt. Cliff Atkinson, base spokesman.

If they do not wish to do so, released hostages are not required to undergo medical tests or debriefings on their way home, and they are free to leave the hospital at any time.

Staff members at the 185-bed facility always have spare bedsheets ready to be painted as "Welcome Home" banners, and they always line the balconies to cheer when a new patient arrives from the Middle East.

"We're ready to work any special requests, too," said Atkinson. "We can make things happen."

The hospital was once reportedly inundated with crates of lobsters from donors when one former hostage mentioned how much he'd like a lobster dinner.

Ferguson said everyday routines, "such as the chance to choose different foods" or having a new passport photo taken, as Tracy did Monday, help speed the re-entry into society.

"The first few days are very critical," he said. "You see a lot of changes."

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