APARTMENT #4 OPENS!

Apt #4 Living Room  Apt #4 Dining Room  Apt #4 Red Room   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.

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Another Learning Experience

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!

 

THROWN FOR A LOOP!

confusion  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:

1)   MAA requires a background check on every resident over 18 and the cost is $85.00/per.  This goes against one of our biggest and most critical goals, which is to keep our move-in process as simple as possible for our patients and care givers.    And we are not willing to spend the foundation’s money in that way.  (Post only did a background check on me and Bob, as did Belara).
2)  In addition:  Mary has been working with MAA’s Corporate office for at least 3 months to see if they would give us a free apartment under a program they call “Open Arms.”  Open Arms does exactly what JCEF does.  They are considered “corporate apartments,” which they furnish and manage.  So the person we talked to at Briarcliff was going to follow up on that possibility.  The only problem is their requirements:
  • 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
3)  We were thrown for a loop, so in the Bob and Mary way of handling stress, we drove next door to Mellow Mushroom to discuss our dilemma while we enjoyed a fabulous pizza!!!  Our conclusion:  it is what it is, but it won’t be for us.  We have a very big problem with an apartment requiring personal information for a 2-3 month stay.  Our goal from Day 1 has been to make this as easy as possible for our residents.
4)  We next drove over to the Belara, where Apartment #2 is located to see if we could rent #4 from them.  They were so accommodating.  First they have a unit available next door to #2, similar floor plan.  It will be available on June 11th.  So we did the application and #4 is in the works.  In addition, they waived most of the deposits.  Up front we only have to pay $200 + a prorated first month’s rent.  And yes, they are aware of the MAA requirement, but they do not have the same requirement.
5)  Today we got an email from Belara saying another apartment (in line, physically,  with #2 and #4) will be available on August 31st.  So we have made the decision to give MAA Briarcliff a 60 day notice (required) on July 1st and we will simply move out of that apartment and into the next at Belara.
This will put 3 of our apartments in one place, literally lined up.
Apartment #3 is a MAA unit, so we are going to run into the same problem.  When we do, we will try to rent another Belara unit (after giving the 60-day notice).  But we will wait until that problem rears it’s ugly head.
Bottom line take away, which we realized at the Mellow Mushroom:  God is sending us in a different direction.  And we say that because this week we were presented with a new idea about places to rent.  Our Real Estate Advisor, Ryan, showed us a triplex that was up for sale within 2 miles of Emory and CHOA.  When we have the funds, would this be a possibility….3 apartments in one house?  Maybe.  None of what just happened is a coincidence.  We believe that with all of our hearts.  So right now we don’t know where we’re going exactly, but we’re listening for our marching orders! Faith will get us there!

ANOTHER SAD STORY FOR OUR FOUNDATION

Trey & Tulips   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.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF DONATION

Janet Painting    Janet table and chair

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.

WE WERE ON TV ONCE AGAIN!

pEACHTREE TV   CBS Group Photo  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.

Silver Skillet  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:

http://www.cbs46.com/clip/14271529/public-affairs-on-peach-segment-2

 

NEVER SAY SENIORS CAN’T HAVE FUN!

sock-hop  The Evans’ had a blast on Friday night, April 13th.  There is a senior living apartment complex in John’s Creek where Mary attends a networking event every month.  Now….apart from the networking event people, the ladies that work in the office of the apartment complex have taken a great interest in our foundation.

SO…they hosted a “Sock Hop” in honor our foundation for their residents and we were invited to attend and to tell everyone about what we are doing.  So Bob and Mary rolled up their jeans and tried to look a little “1950-ish” and headed over there.  We were amazed to find at least 180 people in attendance.  There was a row of ’57 Chevies (is that how you spell that?), the food was the Varsity Food Truck (“What’ll Ya Have?”….onion rings please!)  The DJ was fabulous and we had a blast.  As the evening went on and the dancing began (grandma/grandpa/mom/dad/grandkids…you get the picture), Bob and Mary worked the crowd expressing our thanks.

Thanks for what you ask?  Well part of the price of the ticket was to donate a pair of cashmere socks or donate money towards cashmere socks!  We received six pairs of socks and over $350.00!  We were SO grateful.  As most of you know, all of “our” transplant patients receive a pair of cashmere sock from us in memory of Jeff.

The place was hoppin’ and a good time was had by all.  Thank you to the residents of “The Park.”

Rotary Presentation

Rotary  On April 11th, Mary had the privilege of presenting our foundation to the Brookhaven Rotary Club.  First of all, it was very interesting to hear and understand what Rotary Clubs are all about.  The first one was formed in 1905 in Chicago so that professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas, form meaningful, lifelong friendships, and give back to their communities.  A big part of who they are began in 1979 with their fight against polio.  They began a project to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines. Today, polio remains endemic in only three countries — down from 125 in 1988.  Being a child of the 1950’s who lived across the street from a girl my age who had polio learning this brought this important project directly home.

The Rotary Clubs have what they refer to as the “Four Way Test,” something that we could all live by:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Having said all of that, I will say that my presentation was accepted in a wonderful way.  I felt there was genuine interest in what we are doing.  A Q&A session followed and I happy to answer all of those.  I believe that going forward, in one way or another, Rotary will be beneficial to our foundation.

AN EMOTIONAL DAY FOR MARY

I can only imagine  I had kind of an emotional day today. My afternoon started with having lunch with Brad, which brings me all kinds of joy. Then I walked next door to the movie theater and saw “I Can Only Imagine.” I loved the movie, but it was a tear jerker for me. I came out realizing that I can, indeed, only imagine, but I thought about my Jeff who has seen Jesus face-to-face. His imagining days are over. Did he fall to his knees?    Did he dance for Jesus?  Did he fall to his face?Was he able to speak at all?

On my drive home, I started thinking about “our” transplant patients (the ones who have lived in one of the apartments and moved on). I contacted each of them and received back wonderful, happy news about most of them. Our little 7-year-old is still waiting for his numbers to reach the appropriate place to be placed on the transplant list. He has not been feeling very well. And I had a nice (kind of sad) conversation with the mom of our patient who passed away. I pretty much covered every aspect of this foundation story….some good, some not so good, some emotional and, best of all, the good thoughts about my boy. How I miss him and I will until my imagining days are over.

LOVE CAME TO OUR HOUSE IN A BOX

Pics from Jen   I’m going to start this post by saying that the Evans cousins have a special, tight bond.  To this day they miss their cousin Jeff.  The picture is evidence of that.  When cousin Jen learned that we had a child in one of our apartments, she went to work to bring some love to that child.  What she did arrived from Seattle by Fedex this week to our home.  It was filled with games, puzzles, books and art projects.

Our little patient actually went home yesterday to wait for getting listed on the heart transplant list.  Hopefully when that happens, we will have an apartment available for his family to live in.

In the meantime, we will put these games into any apartment that has a child living in it.  Think of the joy and the “release” they will receive.  A special gift like this one will be such a great addition to an apartment.  Our families need things like this to break the intenseness of what they are living with everyday.  They are literally walking a tight rope.

Thanks, Jen!  Jeff knows what you’ve done!