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TMCNet:  A place to stay when far away

[February 14, 2013]

A place to stay when far away

Feb 14, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Kathy Chene had one bedroom closed off. It was clean, and she wanted it kept that way Tuesday morning.

Though she said she was cleaning the rest of the apartment, other than an occasional box of cookies on the shelf in the kitchenette, there wasn't much left to do. She didn't even leave a trace of the Arby's diet she admitted adopting since moving in Friday.



But she's moving out already, because her husband's getting out of the hospital probably today.

Home for the Chenes is actually about 60 miles south of Alpine, more than three hours away from Odessa. But Medical Center Hospital's Friendship Home gave Kathy a temporary apartment the Friday her husband was flown in from Big Bend Regional Medical Center to treat an internal bleeding episode.

"I was fully prepared to camp out in my car," Chene said of her plans in Odessa before hearing about the home.

The Friendship Home is actually the 10 apartments that make up the sixth floor of the Lincoln Tower. Adina Crain, who coordinates the volunteers for the MCH Friendship Home, said they try to accommodate out-of-town families of patients at MCH so that they can remain close to loved ones while they're hospitalized.

A U.S. map near the elevators was splattered with small dots representing where its past guests hailed. They covered 31 states and parts of Mexico, with an errant dot in a cutout of Italy. Though it wasn't on the map, the hospital had a family from the Netherlands fly over because they thought their Odessa relative was gravely ill, Crain said.

The stay is free, though they suggest a $25-per-day donation to cover the upkeep. The way Crain describes the home's philosophy, by requesting the donations asking the guests to keep their rooms clean, they hope guests "pay it forward" to others who come there.

Sarah Grove, who once used a similar kind of hospital home in Alaska, said she's doing just that by volunteering there.

"It's very close to me personally because I was helped," Grove said.

The Friendship Home opened in January 2010 and initially occupied five of the 10 apartments, sharing the Lincoln Tower's sixth floor with the West Texas Cancer Center, which ran a similar program for its own patients. The cancer center moved out to take a house of its own, allowing the Friendship Home to take the entire floor by April 2011.

The Ronald McDonald House works under a similar concept, but they house the parents and families of hospitalized children.

The monetary donations to Friendship Home help supply the guests with toiletries, wireless Internet, a land line phone and even some food. Some of the goods are donated directly.

"We want to provide everything they need," Crain said.

The support at the home often is more than material. Crain said the families staying there for their hospitalized relatives are sticking there, for better or worse.

Crain kept a diary of the patients who stayed there since its January 2010 opening. The entries -- some of which were thank-you notes to the home -- described the emotional roller coasters many of the families experienced waiting for news on a son's injuries, or a spouse's undiagnosed illness, or another's upcoming surgery.

Though usually the stay ends on a good note with the patient reuniting with the family, as one of those diary entries noted, that doesn't always happen, and so she and the volunteers sometimes lend their support, along with the grief counselors and chaplains from the main hospital.

"We're here for each other," Crain said.

Recalling one of the journal entries, she said, "I had a couple of families who lost their own patient ... What's even harder, (one family) had to wait around for their (relative's) organs to be donated." Kathy Chene, waiting on her husband's pending discharge after hearing his bleeding stopped, said the home helped her considering the difficulties she anticipated finding a hotel room in Odessa, with few vacancies and high rates in the face of the local oil boom.

"This is a godsend because I had no idea where I was going to stay," Chene said.

___ (c)2013 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) Visit the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) at www.oaoa.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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