A message from Kay Kendall, Transplant House of Cleveland Board Member
Senior Social Worker, Heart Transplant Team, Cleveland Clinic
Twenty six years ago my family and I moved to Cleveland. I had already worked as a social worker in outpatient mental health settings for a number of years, but I had never been employed at a hospital. I applied for a position at the Cleveland Clinic and began working there in 1989. About six months after starting, there was an opening on the heart transplant team for a social worker and I was asked if I would like to move to that position. I agreed, not knowing what a wonderful and life-impacting decision I had made! I have worked with over 1,600 patients who have received heart transplants at the Cleveland Clinic, and with their families. I have learned so much from these patients. I have been amazed at how individuals so ill can heal and recover and continue their lives; many returning to work and active life styles. I have been touched by their courage and fortitude during that stressful and frightening time. I have learned of the significance of a support system when people are ill and working toward recovery. Support often comes from a variety of sources—family, friends, health care providers and, so importantly, from other patients and family members who have traveled the same path. Patients and family members have told me how much conversations with fellow transplant patients benefit them.
Many transplant patients travel long distances to receive treatment. Typically, patients stay in the Cleveland area for extended times pre and post-transplant and return frequently for clinic appointments. Although patients have health care coverage, often the expenses for travel, food and lodging are not included in the insurance benefits. The social workers, along with all of the transplant team at the hospital, attempt to assist patients with these unsupported needs.
In the mid 1990’s I met with a group of individuals who wanted to work on developing affordable and supportive housing for transplant patients, modeled after the Ronald McDonald House. We made some progress, but the plans did not progress. Several years ago, I became aware of a group once again working on trying to develop a “transplant house.” That is, Transplant House of Cleveland. I was asked to join the board and I was so pleased to do so and to help address this need again, almost 20 years after our initial efforts. Our board is made up of a tremendous group of individuals. Each person brings their unique interests, talents and skills to this project. And it has worked!!! In July, 2014 we opened Transplant House of Cleveland. The feedback we have received from patients and their support people has been so positive and we look forward to continued growth in 2015 to meet the needs of these patients and their support system.
When I began working as a social worker, I never imagined that I would spend 26 years working with transplant patients. How fortunate I am. I will forever remember the life lessons I have learned from these individuals. Transplant House of Cleveland is a wonderful next chapter in this journey.