Thanks Paul Levy for your recent blog post about Hospitality Homes! http://runningahospital.blogspot.com/2013/04/good-people-helping-people-in-need.html
News & Events
In honor of the holiday season and to jump start the year 2013, we have started a new tradition at Hospitality Homes! As we reflect upon the mission of our program, in its simplest form, we provide a sense of community in an unfamiliar city. Community is what keeps things genuine and organic, as well as brings people together in times of need and in times of celebration. But how does community spread? There is no formula or rule, it just happens through good deeds, helping hands and sharing stories.
Our guests are an important part of the Hospitality Homes community and sharing their stories will help broaden this community as well as keep us connected. Our hope is that by taking a glimpse into the lives of our guests, we can establish lasting connections and inspire others to reach out to Hospitality Homes. Help us celebrate our new tradition by passing this story on to others!
Al and Katy Hayes are amazing individuals. Every day our hosts open their homes to strangers, yet, stepping inside their apartment, it was as though I was their guest, rather than the other way around. This type of genuine hospitality is practically a foreign language these days, but at Hospitality Homes it has become our native tongue. They graciously welcomed me into their space, offered me their newly discovered homemade ice tea, and opened up to me. They shared stories of their pasts, trips they have taken, jobs they once had. They shared their thoughts, their feelings, their beliefs, their politics and their music. They were not afraid to be real with me, and were not afraid to just be, while I was present. This it seems, is what holds them together even in the most difficult times. Katy is here in Boston awaiting medical treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, nearly 1,900 miles away from their home town of Kingwood, Texas. When planning to interview them, I expected to be at their Wingate Healthcare apartment for roughly two hours. I ended up staying with them for over six.
Al and Katy don’t sugar coat things, but they also manage to always find the silver lining. At one point during my time with them, Katy remarked how she struggles with her new lifestyle; Although still in the post-massage half-asleep fog, resting on the couch watching TV, sounds like a dream to anyone, she explains that it’s not who she is. Before losing all four limbs to an invasive infection, Katy was constantly busy maintaining her house, watching her kids, and working from home as a massage therapist. She never had time for naps or watching TV. Now she needs help with everything, a job her husband has taken on nobly. Never mind the everyday tasks of reading a book, sending an email or brushing one’s teeth, Al assists her with eating, drinking and using the bathroom as well as everything else in between. Yet, what I love most about their outlook on their situation is that she doesn’t allow the now to taint their memories and experiences of before. Katy says “I’m so glad I have done so many of the things I wanted to do, took the adventures I wanted to take, because now I have a stockpile of memories to replay in my head while I wait for that phone call.” Awaiting the call from Brigham and Women’s for the first ever double limb transplant surgery, Katy says “as soon as I get these arms, my life will take off!”
As Al shuffles around the living room, moving large cases containing music equipment and Marshall amps, and fiddling with his new Les Paul guitar, he explains that he never would be able to handle what Katy has been through if it had been him. “Nope,” he says, “you would have had to kill me.” Al is the kind of guy who could never sit still long enough during high school English to preserve a good-student reputation, but would ace every test. Similar to Katy, he too has had many adventures and has tried on many careers and hobbies. Al has attended classes at Columbia College in Chicago in concert promotion and music contracts, worked as a semi-professional wrestler for ten years, and now is a music teacher in his home town in Texas. When he got wind of the fact that I am a novice guitar player who can play all of four chords, he immediately offered up some pointers. While here in Boston, Al has also been giving guitar lessons to a few locals! While it is one way to help make ends meet, it is also a way he is able to get out of the apartment and continue teaching.
Between the two of them, they seem like modern day super heroes. They’ve moved eight times in ten years, have had a pet snake, iguana, parrot, cat and dogs, have lived out of an RV, endured Al’s job as a wrestler without one hospital visit, and have two healthy children who are just as adventurous as they are. They joke saying they’ve faced nearly every martial issue that typically ends in divorce, so what’s one more challenge?
After inviting me to stay for dinner and more iced tea, Al and Katy convince me to join them at a local barbeque restaurant that has great live music. I hop in the back of their van and we wind through narrow streets until we reach Smokin’ Joes. Without realizing it, I have stepped into the role of Al’s roadie, carrying his guitar while he wheels Katy into the chaotic and energized restaurant. It’s clear they are regulars here; there is a table waiting for them and they are greeted by all walks of life that also frequent here on Tuesday nights. Here they are truly in their element.
As Katy explained, her stockpile of memories has helped her cope with the uncertainly of their time in Boston. Yet, I think their story demonstrates what powerful resource our families, our hobbies and our connections to others can truly be. Our goal at Hospitality Homes is to help provide the setting where these memories and connections can be made.
Al and Katy's apartment is generously made possible by:
The Brookline home where Dr. Sidney Farber and his wife lived, is now owned by a Hospitality Homes Host couple. This bit of trivia along with great publicity about Hospitality Homes is included in the Dec. 4 edition of Dana-Farber's Inside the Institute.
For many years, Boston Foundation for Sight has been one of the top sources of referrals for guests staying at Hospitality Homes. In some ways, it is an outlier when compared to our other top users: most are large hospitals and rehab clinics, while Boston Foundation for Sight (BFS) occupies about half of the second floor of an otherwise nondescript office building in Needham.
Recently, Hospitality Homes staff and hosts were given the opportunity to see what goes on firsthand in this remarkable facility. We were given a private, after-hours tour of the offices and attached laboratory by Anita Sperber, part of the BFS Development Team, and spoke with Dr. Perry Rosenthal, the founding president of the organization.
It immediately became clear what makes Boston Foundation for Sight unique, and why patients will often travel great distances to seek treatment there. Dr. Rosenthal is the inventor of the Scleral Lens, which can restore normal vision to people who have been unable to see due to certain problems with the cornea or severe eye dryness. Most patients come to BFS, Dr. Rosenthal explains, after being told elsewhere that there was nothing more that could be done for them.
The halls are adorned with success stories, as well as photos and letters from grateful patients across the country. The stories are dramatic and often emotional: there are the stories of a woman who went from being legally blind, using a cane and a guide dog, to becoming a professional photographer; a flight attendant who was able to return to work after years of failing vision; a soldier whose vision was restored for the first time after his tear ducts were destroyed by the heat of an explosion.
The facility includes many amenities to help patients feel comfortable. All waiting areas are equipped with dimmer switches to help those who are photosensitive. BFS staff spends close to a thousand dollars per week keeping the kitchen fully stocked, so that patients and their families do not have to venture out to eat in the downtime between appointments that are often scheduled for several times per day. In the back, a state-of-the-art laboratory manufactures the lenses for each patient. On average, the lab produces approximately 5 lenses for each patient before they are a perfect fit, although sometimes it takes as many as 15 or 20 trials to get the job done.
What is perhaps most remarkable about BFS, though, is their commitment to help everyone who can benefit from the treatment that they offer, regardless of ability to pay. According to Dr. Rosenthal, approximately 20 percent of BFS patients are treated for free. In addition to providing free treatment, BFS staff will go to great lengths to ensure that people from other parts of the country are able to get here. They will help arrange free flights for patients through the Patient Airlift Services or Angel Flights, and free housing, often through Hospitality Homes.
We feel fortunate that we are able to help so many patients who travel here for treatment at BFS. With BFS’s and Hospitality Homes’ shared commitment to help everyone regardless of income, many people have been able to have their lives forever changed by having their vision restored, when there otherwise would have been few options and little hope. As much as possible, we hope to continue helping these sorts of medical miracles occur by ensuring that people traveling to Boston can find affordable lodging.
Pictured below: Dorothy, a patient at Boston Foundation for Sight (left), and her Hospitality Homes host, Margaret (right).
This weekend, we received an e-mail from a guest who wanted to share her story. Her courageous words touched us all. Read here what she said.
My husband was treated for a very rare cancer. We had packed our car, left for Dana Farber and expected to be in Boston for two months. I planned to stay at a hotel, but the hotel/hospital agreement only offered the hospital rate for up to two months. During his admission testing we found out his condition had worsened, and the hospital sent us home with our fully packed car that day. We left our belongings in the car until we got a call that the doctors decided to treat the cancer more aggressively and to come back. Well, there were more delays and complications and in the wink of an eye my lonesome two months in the hotel were very rapidly nearing an end. I knew I couldn't afford to stay at the full rate. The Dana Farber social worker and the coordinator of patient services both recommended Hospitality Homes. I just couldn't imagine imposing on another family and after some prayer and more encouragement from a patient advocate, I finally got the courage to call Hospitality Homes.
There was something I read in the literature that said if the person in the hospital could be brave, you could be brave and move in with a family. I wanted to be brave for my husband, but truthfully it was a difficult decision.
Right away I was able to send an application using the computers and fax machines at the hospital and my references were called. My references told me they were asked to confirm my character. It was a very thorough interview. My boss was one of my references.
I was approved and Hospitality Homes matched me with a family that couldn't have been a better fit.
I heard from my host family and right away we clicked. I love and train dogs and they warned me of the goofy dog they had. So I knew it was going to be the right place.
My hosts welcomed me with open arms, and explained the way the house worked. The dog instantly became a comfort to me and I was even able to work on some behavior issues she had which I think surprised my hosts.
My husband received treatments and I was able to be with him everyday. I stayed with my hosts for about a month. It was so good to be around people who encouraged me to keep faith during discouaging moments. Also their regular daily routine helped me sleep and take care of myself better. My husband liked hearing stories of things happening in the house.
When we left Boston the last thing we did was go back to where I had stayed and my husband met my hosts who I had felt became like my Dad, sister and brother.
Unfortunately my husband did not beat his cancer. But I am so thankful that I was able to see him, walk with him and enjoy his last days. We never gave up hope and I think our marriage was stronger because we were able to be together.
I still write and call my hosts. I hope we remain friends forever because they pulled me through some very difficult days. I know not all guests and hosts bond like we did, but we were put together for a special reason.
It is very difficult to find affordable housing in Boston for a hospital stay. I hope Hospitality Homes continues and that people open up an extra room to an out of towner. It was a great blessing for us to be together.
Here is a note from Caryl Goodman, Executive Director at Hospitality Homes
Today I visited the Waltham studio of artist Janet Shapero and picked up the first of 10 works of art donated by The Art Connection to Hospitality Homes. The beautiful work, Three Squares has very special meaning to me. First, the Hospitality Homes colors, orange and red, are prominent and second, Janet’s aunt and uncle were my parents closest friends so growing up we shared family celebrations. I had not seen Janet for many, many years and today we spent some time catching up. She shared an experience she had rushing to Philadelphia to be with a seriously ill family member and how much it helped her to stay with a local family. Janet is so happy to know Hospitality Homes is helping families and glad that Three Squares will hang on our wall and we are deeply grateful to receive it.
Today one of our guests called to say that the owner of the store where her husband (the patient) works agreed to place a pickle jar next to the cash register and the contents would be donated to Hospitality Homes. The guest made a sign:“If you are afraid of change, put it here.” The jar is now full and the owner will send a check to Hospitality Homes and replace the jar for more donations.
Thank you for your support! If you have ideas of how your community supports Hospitality Homes, email us. We would be thrilled to share... firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I was younger, I spent every summer off from school in someone else’s home, whether it was my aunt’s, my cousin’s, my brother’s… just anywhere that wasn’t really my home. I’ve lived in different parts of Boston and Pennsylvania, and have gotten extremely good at learning how to pack a moving box and a suitcase the right way. In 2010, after my first semester had come to an end at my university in Costa Rica, I packed my bags and prepared to move into my new host home, another home that wasn’t really mine.
This time it wasn’t as easy – I had random objects all over the room that I’d seemed to have collected over the months: items from different beaches all over the country, from the Chinatown-style market in the capital, future gifts that I’d give to my family, and stuff I’d use to decorate my own apartment when I eventually had one. The suitcase and backpack I originally showed up with weren’t exactly cutting it now.
So when I showed up at the next home, I found myself even more stressed out than I usually am when I move. I had my suitcase and backpack tucked in neatly in the trunk of the car, but thrown on top were plastic bags, books, cans of food and other things that I simply couldn’t find a place for. As the car parked in the driveway, I sighed deeply and for once, I wished I weren’t always on the move. I slowly opened the door and went right to the trunk to start gathering my things… again.
That’s about the time my new Host Mom came out of the house to greet me. She looked at me excitedly, and while throwing her arms up in the arm, she said “Stephanie!” but from the look on her face, something was wrong. She let her arms fall to her sides and looked towards the ground, thinking intensely. I paused from rummaging through the trunk and watched her carefully. After all, I would be spending the next few months living in her home. She slowly looked up at me, making an eye contact that seemed to connect more than just our eyes. A smile crept across her face, and it was obvious that whatever piece of the puzzle was missing had just been placed exactly in its spot. “TEFI!” she then yelled, and was so pleased with my new nick name, she rushed over to the car and gave me a hug, welcoming me into her home and into her life.
Within a few days I decided that calling her by her first name just wasn’t working either. It felt too impersonal, too cold, and for all the love she was giving me by allowing me to live there, I had to find something better to call her. She became mamita, which means “little momma,” but sounds much better in Spanish. And although it may have started as an alternative to Katya, which sounded harsh to my ears, it soon became the only word I could think to explain who she was – my mom. Four thousand miles away from my real mother, my Mamita gave me much more than a bed to sleep in, even if she never intentionally did so.
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