Miracles Happen

Perhaps it sounds dramatic to say that we believe we are living a life in the middle of miracles! Another way to say it is this: “we have so many balls juggling in the air, we hardly can keep up.” And it is all about miracles.

It seems like everyone that God sends our way has a real life connection to transplants. Which is a miracle all in itself. When we, the Evans family, first heard the word “transplant” (in regard to Jeff’s newly diagnosed condition) our reaction was (no kidding) “what is a transplant?” And we believe that most people would have the same reaction.

As we formed our first board of directors, very early on in our journey, we looked for people that had a transplant connection. I would like to say it wasn’t easy, but God sent them our way. Britt who had had a heart transplant. Phil who had donated his kidney to his nephew. Cynthia who was a transplant patient caregiver. Annlouise, also a caregiver. Anne Marie, whose family had donated her deceased sister’s organs. The list goes on and on and on.

Now we have recently added quite a number of new board members. And even some of those who joined us without a connection, now have one. One has had a liver transplant. One has a daughter whose father-in-law is waiting for a heart transplant. One is a double transplant survivor….liver and kidney. And one has a husband waiting for a heart transplant. Even our architect who designed our future Transplant House just recently had a nephew pass away and they donated his organs.

Why is this important? I think everyone would agree that if you have a “connection” to any thing, you quickly gain a special passion for it. And that is exactly what is happening.

There’s more!

  1. Coxe Curry has completed our feasibility study. It is beautifully written and tells our story, past, present and future, in a very compelling way. They have introduced the study to four major foundations in Atlanta that fund projects like ours. They were all extremely interested and one day that interest will turn into money. But right now we have some more work to do, particularly in our growth as a foundation. Work has began in earnest in that regard.
  2. We have found a potential site for Transplant House, the process leading up to this is a miracle all in and of itself. Mary spent a day riding around in a car with Amanda and a real estate guy looking at potential properties. The end result of that was seeing a Truist (SunTrust) vacant bank building. First, one of newest board members is best friends with the CEO of Truist! She initiated a conversation with him about the site and…..here’s the miracle….Truist is donating the site with the building to us….a $2.3M gift!
  3. One of the key players at Truist happens to have a brother waiting for a transplant.
  4. The site is in the exact same location as the apartments. Miracle you might say?
  5. We have applied for a Mason Trust grant. Amanda and Ann Curry both have a personal relationship with the person who will make the decision about how the grant might benefit us. It was kind of like having an inside link.
  6. We have just gotten connected to the Christian Radio Alliance. We will see what miracle comes out of this! We were excited to be able to share with them via a press release how Christian this foundation is. The tag line was “Faith is the Engine of the Foundation.”
  7. We have a cleaning crew! Miracles of miracles (from Mary’s point of view). Aulo is from Venezuela, in America on an asylum permit, who works for the construction company that will build Transplant House. He cleaned our last vacant apartment and he did the deepest “deep cleaning” I have ever seen. He was hired on the spot! He will be able to do our cleanings on weekends and evenings. I trust him to show up and clean without me being anywhere in sight. What a blessing!
  8. Many miracles continue to happen every day as our patients recover from their surgeries and get discharged to go home. Babies, kids, teens, young adults, older adults and seniors! God is in the business of healing and we are privileged to see it every day! This is just a sampling of what is going on.
  9. Our prayers continue for the growth of the foundation and for finances to cover the day-to-day operations. The lesson we are learning in regards to these things (especially finances) is NO FEAR!. God is in control. This is HIS foundation; we are the worker bees. He has been faithful from Day One and we are confident that He will continue to be.

Stay tuned!

The tale of 3 little girls

We have had the privilege of housing three little girls in our transplant apartments in recent months. Their stories tell the reason why we do what we do!

First little one (age 2): Her family, including her many siblings, lived in 4018 for 8 long months She was waiting for a new heart and she got one!. They very recently got to go home (always a happy day in our world). I recently got a video of her back home, “Happy as a clam” (whatever that means)! Her smiles said it all!

Second little one (age 6): She actually lived in the apartments TWICE! The first time was at the beginning of the year. She was scheduled for her kidney transplant, which was being donated by her daddy! Something happened back then and her surgery had to be rescheduled. Finally, the surgery was done in May and she is doing great. She is the most precocious little girl. She arrived for surgery with turquoise hair and nails, and proudly showed them to me. She loves to dance and is full of questions! She is anything but shy and I love that about her. She will soon be going home. I’m happy to report that daddy and daughter are doing great.

Third little one (age 4): Her mom calls her “my little warrior princess.” She, too, got a a kidney transplant from her daddy. She had been on dialysis since she was 3 days old and those days are finally over for her. When I asked her who she got her kidney from, she smiled, pointed to her daddy, and clapped her little hands with glee. Cutest little person ever!

These three little pumpkins and their stories bring such happy meaning to our foundation. Their mommies and daddies are the real heroes in these stories. The journeys they have traveled have NOT been easy. But, as most parents would do, their little girls became the centers of their universes. And they did EVERYTHING possible to ensure happy outcomes.

WE NEED A PIECE OF LAND

We are in the process of looking for a piece of land to build Transplant House on. And the task seems as complicated as that picture. 2-2-1/2 acres, $1-3M / within 3 miles of Emory and CHOA. That’s all! We have two realtors looking for us. As always, we KNOW that God already knows where this piece of land is located, and He will reveal it to us at the perfect time.

We have already checked out one location, the Midtown International School, right across the street from the apartments. But it was determined by our architect that it was not a good solution.

So the search continues. We cannot wait to see the end result!

An Easter like no other

At 4:00 a.m., my cell phone started ringing off the hook.  Personally, I didn’t hear it, so that was ignored.  At 6:00 a.m., the office phone rang and I got up to answer, but the caller hung up before I answered.  But when I woke up there was a voice mail on the office phone.
Begin the day!  It was the manager of the apartments telling me that a drunk DeKalb police officer (who lives in the complex), was angry at his husband and chose to take care of it.  But he landed at the wrong apartment (one of ours).  He took a lawn chair off the patio and smashed in two bedroom windows, as well as the patio door window.  Once in, he threw a small table and a lamp across the room (probably in his way of climbing in).  He took off his sweatshirt and left it on the bed.  And then he passed out on the bed.
Someone (we don’t know who) obviously called the police.  They entered and found him passed out on the bed.  He’s now in DeKalb jail with a felony charge against him.
So my first panicked question was, “where’s my caregiver?  Thankfully, she had spent the night at the hospital with her husband, who is a bone marrow transplant patient.  Thank God!
So Bob and I headed down there immediately.  On the way we got a phone call from the caregiver, who said, “I just came back to the apartment and someone has broken in.”  She was so calm, cool and collected, we couldn’t believe it.  But we heaved a huge sigh of relief.  She left everything where it was so we could take pictures.  NOTHING was stolen, NO ONE was hurt, and NONE of our property was damaged.
I’ll admit I was a crazy woman (my main concern being my caregiver).  She then got funny on us and said, “I’m sure I could have taken him down if he was that drunk.  And besides, I’ve got a gun!”  Lordy, in all my projections, I had not pictured that!  Thankfully, none of that occurred!
SO….Bob and I got all of her stuff moved over to another apartment that, truthfully, I was unhappy about that it was vacant!  She got moved into #7, the one that the Georgia Furniture Mart furnished for us (beautiful), and she thinks she’s in the lap of luxury (her words).  And on top of everything, her husband is being discharged tomorrow.
My mom always used to say “you never know what a day will bring forth.”  Isn’t that the truth!  We came home, we ate, and I crashed.  That’s my way of handling stress.
That’s our story of Easter 2021!  Not what we planned or expected.

TIME TO RETHINK

Most people reading this blog realize that it is a timeline for the writer about what happens in the daily life of the foundation. This is one of those posts.

Sometimes life throws a curve ball at you from an unexpected source and you are required to rethink your way of doing things. That happened this week. For the first time ever, one of our residents was unhappy with me for a variety of reasons. Several things, from her viewpoint, were wrong about the apartment to begin with…I would like to list them, but it would be too obvious. And the worst accusation was that “you must not have a heart.” I was not sympathetic or empathetic enough about her transplant situation for her comfort. That hurt! I do have a heart; a pretty big one that also happens to be a broken heart. In fact, the foundation was formed based on the hearts of this family. And to add to that, for me to get emotionally or any other way involved in the lives of the transplant families that live in our apartments (there have been 100 of them), would be impossible. Try as I might (and I do try when appropriate) I simply don’t have the time nor the energy to do that. Enough said about that.

However, I’m a person that tries to understand another viewpoint and if I can make something better or “fix it,” I will. So my take on this situation is as follows:

  1. We will update our website to address her concerns.
  2. We will have no more “same day” or “overnight” turnovers of residents. I will take the time to make sure that everything in the apartment is maintained. This could take time if it requires the apartment maintenance staff to do the fix…2-3 days at best.
  3. Apartment #8 will be the last apartment before Transplant House is up and running. I’ve reached my max.
  4. When #8 becomes available, I will hire a moving company to move what is in storage to the apartment. Everything else that remains will be removed by the “junk kids” who live across the street from us who have a junk removing business. The big storage unit will be closed. And then the storage garage at the apartment complex will be a place for replacement items for the 8 apartments.

That’s off my chest. I’ll happily move forward doing my job in the best way possible. I love what I do! And I will be incredibly grateful that this has happened with only 1% (literally) of the wonderful people that I have met along the way of this journey.

Transplant Family #…

On Sunday afternoon, January 10th, we will be welcoming our 100th transplant family to our apartments. In a short 3-1/2 years, we have literally exploded! Our patients have ranged in age from newborn to 74 years old. Their transplants have been hearts, lungs livers and kidneys. And just recently, we began accepting bone marrow and stem cell patients. It’s been an incredible ride, made possible by so many people. We are humbled by all of the support we have received. I only wish I could convey the gratefulness of our patients and caregivers for everything that family, friends and total strangers have contributed to accomplish our vision of providing patients a “bridge to life” while recovering from their organ transplant.

Our journey began from a tragic point in time, when we lost our Jeff due to the lack of transplant. But by God’s mercy, we have taken that tragedy and made something good from it. Jeff is looking down from his special place in heaven with his signature smile saying, “good job mom, dad and Brad and thanks to everyone that has played a part in this adventure!”

Christmas 2020

Christmas is a special time of year. There is no doubt about that. But when you are going through an organ transplant, Christmas can seem upside down, just like the snowman. You have to try and “buck up” and act like everything is normal. Well, NOTHING is normal when this is happening.

So we try and make things as normal as possible in the transplant apartments. We decorate them with a tree and other decorations and hope that it makes our patients and caregivers experience as normal a Christmas as possible. They are welcome to invite their family to visit. However, this year has been a bit different with COVID-19. Some doctors encourage their patients to keep to themselves. That’s one of the saddest parts of this hideous disease. What is even more sad is the fact that most caregivers are not even allowed in the hospital to visit their loved one. I can’t even imagine what that feels like.

So if you are a praying person, please add our transplant families to your list. You don’t know them and never will, but God does.

We have a new…

Actually we have a new BOD comprised of existing and new members. We had our first combined Board Meeting on Wednesday, November 11th. It was done by a ZOOM call, which is a sign of the times we are living in.

Each of our 16 members gave a brief description of themselves and spoke about how they see themselves contributing to the Foundation’s vision. It was amazing to see how the two distinct groups of people absolutely melded into one.

We are now on an amazing journey together whose sole purpose is to serve our transplant patients and their caregivers. The Evans family looks back at our humble beginnings and are totally amazed where we are at this moment. But even more amazing is the path we are moving forward on.

BIG things are in our future. Plans are in the making to begin a capital fund raising campaign in January 2021. Properties are being explored in an effort to find the perfect location for the Transplant House. Before we know it, all of the planning that has been happening in the background with the help of so many people will be turning into a Transplant House that has been a big part of the vision from Day One.

Thanks goes to Amanda Brown-Olmstead, our PR person, who worked tirelessly to bring on the seven new people, each with distinct experience, skills, networks and passion. We are blessed beyond measure to have her in our corner.

MASKS!

I’m pretty sure that everyone would agree that we are living in crazy times! Depending on where you live, whenever you go out of your house, you are met with people wearing masks. Well….we have a mask story!

Our niece, Becky, who lives in Vancouver, Washington, made and sent to us over 150 masks to be given out to our patients and care givers. I always have a packet of information, which includes the cashmere socks, that I give to each new caregiver when I first meet them. Now the masks are included and my caregivers are overwhelmed that someone has done that for them. Like I told Becky, “you are now a part of the story!”

And if you knew Becky, you would know that she included a very touching note with each mask. There are so many people in this world that over and over deserve our thanks for their contribution to the Foundation, whatever that may be. Sometimes it’s the seemingly small things that matter so much.

Thank you, kiddo! We can never thank you enough. Your cousin, Jeff, is looking down and if you could hear him, he would be saying “thank you, cuz!”