Last week we welcomed our 20th transplant family to one of our apartments. 20th!! The patient is a gentleman who has received a new liver and his caregiver is his wife. When I was showing the wife and her sister around the apartment, one of them said, “you must be a Southerner!” I replied, “no, ma’am, I’m not, but I’m also not a Yankee! I’m from the Pacific Northwest.” Her reply: “well, honey, just give me your passport and I’ll stamp it and make you an official Southerner, because this apartment is Southern Hospitality at it’s best!” Made me happy!
We have been given a wonderful gift from two people, Billy Hong (a high school friend of Brad’s) and Lori Geary (formerly of WSB TV) in the form of a video for the foundation. Last Friday we all met at Apartment #4 for Lori to interview, and Billy to video, our current transplant patient and his care giver, Steve and Diane. It was fascinating to watch these professionals do what they do best. First Diane was interviewed, followed by Steve’s interview. Then the apartment was filmed, along with some random shots, which will make the video personal. Follow up included sending pictures of the other apartments and, most importantly, pictures of Jeff. The next step will be the interviews with Bob and Mary. And then we will stay tuned to see the final product. We can’t wait. This is going to be a remarkable marketing tool and we could not be more appreciative! Things like this just don’t fall in your lap every day. Thank you Billy and Lori!
This quilt arrived at my front door today. It is a beautiful child’s quilt, handmade by my childhood friend, Moira. The colors are amazing. We have decided that this quilt will be a wall hanging in the next apartment that we put together for our next little transplant patient from Children’s Hospital. Along with the quilt came so many memories of fun days that we had as kids and teens. Moira and I were part of a trio made up of Moira, Mary and Joan. And did we ever have fun back in the day together! We were the typical girls who spent hours on the phone, had many, many sleep overs where we did more talking than sleeping. We drove around in my ’66 Chevy Malibu, eating hamburgers and fries at Dick’s. We argued, made up, forgot about the argument and went on just having fun together. They were good days. Now we are all grandmas! I found this quote, which pretty much sums things up: “You don’t have to have anything in common with friends that you’ve known forever. You’ve got your whole life in common.”
On Friday evening, June 29th, we attended a party in honor of our friend and Board member, John Hollingsworth, as a send-off to the next phase of his incredible life. John entered our lives at a time when we desperately needed someone to write our Business Plan. We met him for lunch, told him about the foundation, and he agreed to come on board. To say the least, John is an incredible young man. He is currently an investment banker at RBC Capital Markets, and formerly an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. He received his undergraduate degree from UGA and an MBA from Emory University. And on top of all of that, and most importantly, he is a genuinely great human being.
The party was held at the Millennium Gate Museum. The Millennium Gate Museum is a triumphal arch and Georgia history museum located in Atlanta, on 17th Street in the Atlantic Station district of Midtown. Based on the Arch of Titus, the monument celebrates peaceful accomplishment, with special attention paid to Georgia’s history and people. As of 2011, it is the largest classical monument to have been dedicated since completion of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. The arch inscription reads, in Latin: “This American monument was built to commemorate all peaceful accomplishment since the birth of Jesus Christ in the year of our Lord, MM.”
It was an incredible evening honoring John, held in a most incredible place, attended by a group of John’s friends, who he described as the people most important and most influential in his life. The Evans family wishes you all the best, John, as you embark on this new venture. We thank you for taking the lead in forming our business plan. It is going to make all the difference in the next phase of our foundation. We will look forward to your return visits to Atlanta. We love you!
On June 14th, we opened Transplant Apartment #4! This apartment was furnished and decorated with Children’s Hospital patients and families in mind. It comfortably sleeps 5-6 and there is a pack and play available, along with toys and games. It’s unique.
On the day it was opened, our first care giver moved in. Her husband is a double-lung transplant patient, who will be released from the hospital soon in order to move into the apartment.
Every week we are discovering how much what we are doing is needed. Over the last two weeks, we have had to turn away five families. So we will soon begin working on Apartment #5.
When things have been running perfectly for almost a year, it’s pretty amazing when you run into a major problem. Our problem: We had a family move into one of our apartments on a Thursday. It was far from the “normal” move-in. No less than 8 people arrived to see the apartment. What we had agreed to, as always, was a patient and a care giver; not a patient and seven others! In addition, this particular family was not on the same page, so to speak. Two major “players” actually couldn’t stand each other and each pulled Mary aside to tell her their side of the story. Talk about uncomfortable!
When Mary turned over the keys and left the apartment, all of the people were still there, including the patient and the assigned care giver. Mary called the Social Worker with some big concerns. The Social Worker assured Mary that the only people who would be living in the apartment would be the patient and the care giver. And she agreed to keep me in the loop about anything unusual happening.
Well, on Monday morning, Mary got a call from the Social Worker and things were not looking good. The weekend had been total chaos. It’s a long story that I won’t go into, but the bottom line was this: we had to go over to the apartment and evict all of them! The Social Worker had already told the residents that this was going to happen. WHAT??
So Bob and Mary headed over to the apartment and found three kids living there with no care giver in sight. This is a scary scenario for the patient. He was doing very well, but the fact is….things could change on a dime for him, and then what were the kids going to do? Bob and Mary’s ONLY concern was for the patient. And it was a BIG concern.
This all ended with everyone moving out, but not before Mary had to listen to a phone call that lasted 5 minutes (Bob is my witness!) telling her what a horrible, disrespectful person she was and that this story was going to the newspapers!
So far, we haven’t seen ourselves written up in the newspaper so we’re assuming someone got their head screwed on straight. But our concern is still all about the patient. We can only hope that all goes well for him. We’ll never know.
Lesson learned: GO WITH YOUR GUT!
I guess this is just part of doing business. Everything does not go the way we want it to all of the time. This week we were faced with a decision we hadn’t planned on having to make.
Bob and Mary drove down to the MAA (formerly Post) Briarcliff apartment complex where we rent Apartment #1. We went with the intent to rent Apartment #4. But things did not go well as we got into the discussion. Here’s the timeline:
- All occupants 18 years of age or older must successfully pass a community background check.
- Guests will need to provide a signed and dated Medical Records Authorization form.
- Guests will be required to furnish initial documentation from the facility where they are being treated (letter of medical treatment)
- At each six month interval from the date of occupancy of an Open Arms unit the guest will furnish updated documentation.
And all of this has to be completed before the patient or care giver can move in. Our process is:
- Get a call from a social worker (which so far, has literally happened the day before discharge and approval has already been given by the Georgia Transplant Foundation or LifeLink);
- The social worker has the family call Mary.
- Mary meets the family to turn over the keys.
- DONE – No stress on the new residents
This is Charles Howard Theus III (Trey). He is the youngest transplant patient to live in one of the apartments. He moved in on April 10th with his mom, dad and grandma. He was only 5 months old and was waiting for a liver transplant. He was the sweetest little guy you could ever hope to meet and know. He had a smile that lit up the room and he was so cuddly….just a sweetheart. He was doing very well for about one month, when he got really sick. And sadly, on May 11th, he passed away. It’s hard to express our feelings. His passing, of course, opened Jeff’s story for us once again. What we are learning is this: we are doing much more than providing a place for transplant patients to live. We are getting attached to them in one way or another (it can’t be helped). It’s not always easy, but it is definitely the most rewarding part of everything that we are doing. If God can use our pain to help someone else deal with theirs, we are more than happy to let Him use us.
Mary and Brad attended his funeral in Jesup, Georgia. It was a comforting service but we had to admit that it really difficult to look at a little, tiny coffin. But we remembered that only Trey’s body was in the coffin. Baby Trey is now in the arms of Jesus, safe and well. For that we are grateful. But the other side of that coin are the ones left behind. Our prayers are for his mom and dad and grandma. He was their world and they are crushed.
As is a common occurrence, Bob met a woman at ACE who wanted to help the foundation and what she volunteered to do was to paint furniture. Her name is Janet Seebeck, and she has become a good friend. Janet lives in a town home, so she drives over to our house in order to paint. She told Mary to look for furniture that is not in very good shape (and therefore cheap!) and she would make it look like new. So Mary found this table and four chairs at a thrift store for $40.00. It was in rough shape, but Janet did, indeed, make it look like new. The best thing about her is this: she first sands, then primes, then sands again, and then puts on at least two coats of paint. If Mary was doing it, she would probably dust the piece off and spray paint a couple of coats and call it a day! Janet’s work is beautiful….as you can see! This table and chairs will be going into Apartment #4.
Sometimes, as we move forward with our foundation, amazing opportunities present themselves. Friday, April 13th, was one of those times. Bob and I headed out from Ball Ground at 6:00 a.m., anticipating a terrible drive to Atlanta, one that could take possibly 2 hours. We were pleasantly surprised to arrive WAY ahead of time. So what did we do? Breakfast, of course.
We ate at the SILVER SKILLET in Atlanta. Apparently this restaurant has been in a lot of movies and if you were inside, you would understand why. It’s OLD and loaded with old time charm. We can recommend the pancakes and sausage without hesitation!
Then on to the “amazing opportunity.” We were invited by CBS46 to participate in a program honoring “Organ Transplant Month” which is April. We were one segment of four. The group picture, above, shows all of the participants. It was an EXCELLENT presentation from the standpoint of educating the public about transplants, which is a multi-faceted subject.
Segment #1 was a couple whose 15-year-old son was killed in a tragic car wreck. They made the unselfish decision to donate his organs and 5 people received his major organs. They have also set up a scholarship fund in his honor to be given to students “of character.” It was an emotional segment.
Segment #2 was ours. And, of course, it was about two things. One was that our son passed away before getting a transplanted heart and how that affected our lives. And then we talked about how loosing Jeff has translated into our passion for transplant patients. We talked about about how we provide housing for transplant patients and their care givers at no cost to them while they are going through their transplant experience.
Segment #3 was two gentlemen who have received successful heart transplants: one almost 20 years ago (which is totally amazing) and one 3 years ago. They both are HEAVILY involved in the transplant world, volunteering their time at the hospitals in order to encourage patients and also spreading the word about organ donation and it’s EXTREME importance. Just an aside here about a “small world.” One of the guys knew one of our apartment patients, and the other’s doctor was Dr. Andy Smith from Emory who was instrumental in getting our foundation started.
Segment #4 was about the Georgia Transplant Foundation and LifeLink, both organzations that help us enormously in a financial way. Their main focus was to debunk a lot of myths about transplants, and there are many. One thing that stood out (and this is very important in our Southern culture): 1) after donation, it is still entirely possible to have an open casket funeral.
It aired on Sunday, April 15. I have attached a link to our segment: