It’s been a whirlwind of a week around here!
On Tuesday, May 6, Mary was invited to attend a Tea at the Four Season in Atlanta by Logan Vaughn, a Financial Planner with Edward Jones. I met Logan at a senior networking event a couple of months ago and she took an interest in our foundation. Her goal was for me to meet people from her financial world that would take an interest in what we are doing. She had invited a select group of 12 women and I was privileged to be one of them! As you can imagine, it was a treat to be sitting at the Four Seasons, late morning on a Tuesday, sipping tea and munching on….. NO KIDDING! I heard a presentation on financial planning that was extremely interesting. But more importantly, I was able to meet all of these new people and share our foundation’s story. THANK YOU, LOGAN!
As our foundation continues to grow and as we continue trying to get our message out there, it has occurred to everyone on our board of directors, and especially to Mary, that we are in a very exclusive niche within the non-profit sector. Being “exclusive” sounds great in some ways, but the truth of the matter is, we need to find something that will tug on the heart strings of people.
The old saying,”if you knew what I knew” applies here. Because we entered into the world of transplants in a very, very personal way, and because our experience ended in the worse possible way with the loss of Jeff, we truly have a heart for the people getting transplants, and even more we have a heart for the care givers. Mary’s passion lies with the care givers because she has walked in their shoes.
SO….in the middle of the night, as is almost always the case, an idea came to Mary. She got up and began working on it immediately. Who needs sleep, right??!!
I want to do a video that expresses what the care givers’ thoughts are; the things that go through their minds as they live through the transplant experience. The patient is being taken care of by a team of doctors, social workers, nurses, and every other medical category you can think of. The care giver is mostly ALONE. So I contacted a guy that went to high school with Brad who is in the video-making business. We are going to meet for coffee next week to discuss my ideas. I can’t wait to hear what Billy Hong has to say about what is rolling around in my head.
Our very first patient, Will, was officially released from Emory on January 23rd and headed home to his family near Savannah. Will lived in Apartment #1 for almost 7 months! We are so happy that he has recovered to this point and our prayer is for a long, healthly life for him.
On January 29th, we got a call from Piedmont that they had a liver transplant patient and his care giver that needed a place to live. Mary drove down to the apartment on that very day to turn over the keys to the care giver, Laura. She was so appreciative because, as she said, she had been worrying about where they would live because of financial issues (this is ALWAYS the problem for our residents). When Mary was talking to her, she said this….”I have a 7-month-old grandbaby and now he can visit!” As a grandma, Mary understood that comment. The Evans family believes that, as much as the apartments give peace, comfort and financial easing, they also keep the family together. NOTHING makes us happier. The patient, Bill, should be released from the hospital to the apartment in a couple of days to begin his healing journey. Welcome to Laura and Bill!
On Thursday, 12/21, we welcomed another family to Apartment #2. Dad had a liver transplant the previous Saturday. Mom has been sleeping in the hospital waiting room since then. And Mary met mom at the apartment to hand over the keys. They are from North Georgia and were in desperate need for a place to live. This patient came from Piedmont Hospital, which is a first. As was the case with our first two families, mom burst into tears when she got her first glimpse of her “home away from home.” We are so incredibly grateful that we are able to provide the apartments to these families. It’s our privilege to serve them in any way possible.
On Thursday, December 14, Mary attended the funeral for Tiffany Rymer, our double lung transplant patient, whose family lived in our Apartment #2. I had only seen pictures of Tiffany during her time of suffering in the hospital after her transplant, which involved so many complications. When I saw her before her burial, I was absolutely amazed. She was a beautiful, sweet-looking young woman. Having experienced Jeff’s death, I truly believe that something amazing happens to the body between life and death. It is so evident that the suffering is OVER. From everything that was said about Tiffany, what I just said about her described her inside and out. She loved the Lord, her Savior. People talked about how she never worried or was in fear, even as she depended on the Lord for every breathe she took. She had a huge, loving family that surrounded her and I met every one of them.
Tiffany’s mom, Missy, and stepdad, Harry, along with her sweet grandma, Lola, were so incredibly appreciative of being able to live in the apartment. Every family member I met thanked me over and over and over again. And I realized that so many of them had visited Missy and Harry in the apartment, which only confirmed that what we are doing is the right thing. We LOVE that this family used the apartment in every way possible, even celebrating Thanksgiving there with each other.
Tiffany is in the presence of her Heavenly Father, no longer pulling along an oxygen tank and breathing heavenly air like never before. As her pastor said, “she’s kickin’ up gold dust!” Missy and Harry and the rest of the family are left to grieve. They will be in the Evans’ family prayers. We experienced what they are going through over 11 years ago, and we KNOW the thoughts and feelings that they are experiencing right now. It’s not easy, but like us, they have a strong faith and that faith is what will make all the difference.
So goodbye Tiffany. Your life was way too short, but you have left an incredible legacy of love for your God and love for your family and friends.
This has been a very interesting week for our foundation. It began in a very good way when we got notice from our Emory Social Worker that our first apartment patient was going to be released by his medical team on November 30th. We were so happy for Will that he was finally able to go back home. It’s been a long, five month journey for him and his wife, Melody. When Will left the apartment for the last time, he just left the keys on the dining room table, knowing that Bob and Mary would be at the apartment later that evening to begin cleaning it to get ready for our next guest.
Thursday evening…Bob and Mary arrived at the apartment and were absolutely blown away by how clean and tidy the place was. The Kirkland’s had done a thorough cleaning themselves, washing the sheets and towels, cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen, dusting and vacuuming! It was spotless. All we had to do was make up one of the beds. So we immediately contacted the social workers at all three hospitals and the Georgia Transplant Foundation to let them know the apartment was ready for someone else as early as Friday.
Thursday night, driving back home…Mary got a text from Melody, that the doctor did one more test before releasing Will, and it showed a problem. Will has to return to the hospital on Monday for further care. What would happen next? All Bob and Mary cared about was getting Will back into the apartment, but that is not up to us. So we left it in God’s hands.
Friday morning….Mary got a call from the social worker at Emory that she was doing the paper work involved with Georgia Transplant Foundation to allow Will to move back into the apartment.
Friday at noon…Mary got a call from Will and emails from GTF and Emory that everything was approved for Will to move back in. Praise God!
Friday afternoon….Mary drove back down to the apartment to return the keys to Will. She arrived before he did, and she brought a little decorated Christmas tree and a couple of other Christmas cheer-type things for the apartment. Anything to make Will happy!
Will arrive with his mom. Will looked a little down hearted (who wouldn’t), but he was so happy and relieved to be “back home.”
Our foundation literally exists to help avoid these kinds of circumstances. In other words, to make this process as worry free as possible for our patients and care givers. But this was out of our hands. Fortunately, it was in bigger hands and HE came through. We have no idea how long Will be there, but he knows that he has a place to live until he is finally released to go back to his new normal.
The family that is living in Apartment #2 are from North Georgia. Their daughter, Tiffany, is a double lung transplant patient. Her care givers are her mom, Missy, her dad, Harry, and her grandma, Lola. Mary had the opportunity to meet Harry yesterday for the first time. And he presented her with the most wonderful gift, a poem he had written straight from his heart. It expresses everything that has been in our hearts from the beginning and it expresses it SO WELL. Thank you, Harry!
With sincere happiness upon your face
you welcomed us home,
to your place.
This place before we had never seen,
so cozy and homey,
was spotlessly clean.
So difficult a journey we had to begin
was made much easier
when you welcomed us in.
Your sincere desire to help those in need
was to us far beyond
a simple good deed.
When in prayer we asked, “God what can we do?”
He answered with a miracle
and He sent it through you.
We were strangers, yet you opened your door
Our burden you lifted
we carried it no more.
For in years gone by you had traveled this road
now through you “WE FOUND REST”
with your gift of abode.
From your “hope and prayers” now we find
solace and comfort
sweet PEACE OF MIND.
The passing of your son, to you so dear
leave you memories of him
still perfectly clear.
You determined yourself with this gift to try
to give life to his memories
and never let them die.
You have chosen to ease the burden and help bear the cross
to even a stranger
who might suffer such loss.
Your help to our family and this daughter’s sweet mother
obeys CHRIST’s commandment
to love one another.
With generosity you help bind us together
in this dwelling and in our hearts.
JEFFREY “JEFF” CAMPBELL EVANS….
lives on forever.
God bless you,
With thankful heart sincerely,
Harry A. Ward
One of Jeff’s favorite places on earth was his Great Grandpa Kaarto’s cabin in Michigan on the Upper Peninsula (pictured above). He spent a very memorable summer there with his Grandpa Evans. The trip required a round-trip drive from Washington to Michigan and it included many very funny and not-to-be-forgotten moments! He also spent more than one summer vacation there with his aunts, uncles and cousins. He couldn’t have asked for more.
So in remembrance of this, Bob suggested that the next apartment be decorated like a cabin. I know Jeff would agree! When this idea was presented to Mary, she thought, “how will I ever do that?” But it turns out that it’s a pretty easy assignment. Mary has started going to her regular antique stores, consignment stores, junk stores, etc. and she’s finding all kinds of appropriate furnishings. Just today she picked up a canoe oar, which will be used in one way or another!
We hope to have Apartment #3 opened in February of 2018 at the very latest. Stay tuned for pictures of the final product!
I got an email a couple of days ago from a person I met at one of the networking events that I attend. She is a person who helps seniors move from their big homes to assisted living/senior apartments, etc., in other words seniors who are downsizing. She told me about a friend of hers who was moving and was willing to donate items that she would not be taking to her next home. So Bob and I went over there yesterday and had a VERY exciting time at doing this for the first time. She donated things like a dresser, a bed, lots of lamps, end tables, coffee tables, area rugs, the list goes on and on and on. So we have arranged with our mover, John, to pick all of these things up on December 5th to move them to storage. The reason this is so exciting is that it SAVES US MONEY! And we are all about spending our foundation’s money in the best way possible. Thank you Trish and Marsha!