In her own words
[Sandi took the time to write down her thoughts and email them to our staff. Her own words, transcribed below, are a powerful testament to the impact that Kathy’s House had on the Jones family – and how we are making a difference for all families]
Kayla had asked if my husband and I might agree to an interview about our experience here at Kathy’s House, so I decided to write down a few thoughts in case we wouldn’t get to talk to anyone in person. I don’t know that we would have anything new to say, but if someone is looking for a warm atmosphere of concern and understanding where they can feel safe and at home, it would be here.
In a brief summary of our journey: My husband has multiple myeloma, an incurable type of blood cancer which develops in plasma cells. These cancer cells build up in bone marrow and crowd out healthy blood cells.
He was diagnosed early before severe brittleness of the bones and bone pain took place. It was recommended that he have months of chemo and then a stem cell transplant. That is what brought us to Kathy’s House for about 30 days. He was hospitalized for two weeks so I stayed at Kathy’s House alone for 14 days and could walk back and forth to visit him and have meals with him. There were many intangible and tangible advantages to Kathy’s House.
I’m from a small town, and Milwaukee driving – especially at peak traffic times – can be nerve wracking. It is a short, safe, well-lit walk with a flashing crosswalk.
Safe, Hygienic Environment
Janitorial staff and volunteers, as well as house guests focus on a sanitized, healthy environment. There are countless spray bottles to clean work surfaces. Even toast crumbs are cleaned out of the toasters on a regular, maybe even a daily basis. Clean dishes are handled with plastic gloved hands when they’re put away. I’ve observed the vacuuming of upholstered furniture, the changing of filters, the cleaning of overhead light fixtures, the sanitizing of garbage cans, and the daily replenishing of towels, bedding, and any paper supplies you might need.
A person is at the front desk for 24-hour monitoring to make sure anyone who enters has a badge and lanyard noting that they are a guest or someone checking in. With the easy use of this badge you can enter a private parking lot and gain access to the building and your room.
$50 a night is manageable, and if it isn’t there are adjustments that can be made or assistance that can be offered.
As much of “a home away from home” as possible
Each room has its own bathroom with shower, mini refrigerator, counter top work area, desk, recliner, television, comfortable beds, and generous closet area. If you want alone time, you can eat in your room, or enjoy the beautiful sun rooms, library, work out/ fitness area, family room, etc. Being able to wash your own clothes in the laundry room was a special blessing. I brought my own detergent and softener, but was surprised that those items were furnished.
For me personally I could play the beautiful grand piano which brought peace to me during two weeks away from my husband.
Special Treats and Meals
There have been many nights when meals have been prepared by volunteers or special groups that are free to the guests. The kitchen has a number of food items like cereal, oatmeal, fruit, coffee, tea, milk, and every kind of condiment and spice for use by the guests. There are crock pots, gas and electric stoves, pots, pans, cookie sheets, dishes, and utensils for use by everyone staying here, so you can cook as if you were home in your own kitchen.
It is not only the friendly greetings and a willingness to help and answer questions that sets this staff apart from the rest. They have the compassion to listen when a guest is in need of someone to talk to. They sympathize with setbacks and celebrate the break-throughs of each patient.
In a very short time, the staff and volunteers become helpful caregivers in their own way. They are very genuine and make sure they check to see how you’re doing. Having many of them call you by name makes you feel part of a family. My family expressed concern for me and wanted to be here for me, but I can truly say that I had a support system here that made me feel cared for.
Interactions with Patients
It’s hard to put into words the benefit of being with other patients who are experiencing similar health concerns. My husband was comforted by listening to other patients and their experiences and knowing what to expect. He realized some of the difficulties he was going to face but they could share the advice to take one day at a time and that he would begin to feel better after the first 5 days or so. They gave him confidence to face the bad days because they went through those days and knew that there would be an upswing to the way he was feeling.
Network of Caregivers
Whether it was in the laundry room, the hallway, or in the kitchen preparing something to eat, there was someone who was having a bad day themselves or who was willing to share encouragement if you received bad news…It was the best support I could have hoped for.
Community of Care
There was always someone asking how I was doing. If I was eating alone, they would never pass me by without stopping to at least say, “Hello.” I truly felt like a valued guest who mattered. Kathy’s House is a place that I didn’t know I needed, until I did!