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When Diane Haber of Ohio was diagnosed with mesothelioma, she wanted BWH's David Sugarbaker, MD, - an expert on this rare cancer - to perform her surgery and provide treatment. The surgery and recovery required Diane and husband Barry to stay in Boston for five weeks.
"Boston wasn't the most convenient place, but for what my wife was going through, it was the best place," Barry said. Braced for enormous hotel costs, Barry felt part of his stress lift when he found out about Hospitality Homes. The program, founded in 1983, strives to meet the housing needs of patients' families when they travel to Boston. It puts families and friends of patients in homes of caring people for free, saving guests upwards of $12.6 million in hotel costs since its inception.
Hospitality Homes now includes two apartments dedicated for guests who face long-term stays in Boston, have difficulty climbing stairs or have cultural issues that make privacy especially important. Gerald and Elaine Schuster, in consort with their Wingate Management Company, two years ago generously donated one of these
apartments - the apartment in which Barry Haber would stay while his wife underwent surgery in June 2004.
"Having the apartment was a wonderful experience in a bad situation," Barry said. After spending days by Diane's side in the hospital, he would return to the solitude of the Commonwealth Avenue apartment, cook meals in the kitchen and watch movies. "I had a nice place to stay, laundry in the building and a grocery store nearby," he said. The apartment building also houses an exercise room and a swimming pool, and building staff were so moved by the program that they inspired Wingate Management to assume payment of the apartment's cable bill.
The apartments are a "home away from home," said Chris Collins, director of Patient Access Services and board member for Hospitality Homes. "Families who stay there have a sense of being at home. They're able to cook meals themselves and have other members of their family stay with them to provide support. Their presence is a vital part of the healing process for the patient."
Families like the Habers, who have stayed with host families or in the apartments, are grateful, according to Marianne Duddy, executive director of Hospitality Homes. "The most powerful feedback is when someone says, 'Without this program, my family member could not have accessed lifesaving treatment available only in Boston,'" she said. "The living costs make it impossible for many."
"The Schuster Family continually supports Brigham and Women's Hospital," Collins said, "This goes a step beyond; it helps the whole Boston health care community."
For more information, visit www.hosp.org