A Clearing In the Forest

For families facing organ transplant, the path ahead is full of unknowns. Evaluation, listing, the wait, and the recovery and their new life that comes after each have their own challenges – and no two transplant journeys are exactly alike. The emotional and physical pain that guests experience, the weight of the stress that this journey places on them, and the disorientation many feel – these are all overwhelming.

I have had the chance to interview some of our guests and informally chat with many others. I am always struck by their resilience in the face of the many roots and stones transplant throws in their way along the path to the gift of renewed life.

To maintain that strength in the face of it all is truly superhuman; though for our guests it’s simply “what has to be done.” There is the wife who is determined to be a source of strength to her husband as he fights to hold on to life long enough for a multi-organ transplant, the mother caring for a son who has struggled all his life with chronic health problems, and the couple who have spent the better part of a decade holding on to the love they have for one another hoping that what they have each fought so long and so hard for is finally in their reach.

Each of these transplant journeys began differently and each will continue down its own unique path; but as one of the anonymous entries in the journals we keep in the apartments for guests to use says, “no one journey has the same hurdles or endings, however what I can say is our paths have brought us all to the same clearing in the forest.”

It’s a beautiful image, that moment of stepping into the warmth, light, and air. The weight being carried feels a little lighter and the road ahead is a bit clearer. You can take a breath. For the first time in a long time, you don’t have to worry about your next step.

I’m reminded of the guest who, feeling overwhelmed by caring for her husband in the ICU, felt renewed by walking to Wade Oval this past spring with our Transplant Social Worker Annette. “I needed this,” she said while smelling the newly blooming cherry blossoms.

Even the strongest of caregivers and patients need a moment like this.

Amid endless hospital appointments, twelve-hour days spent at the ICU, trips to and from rehab facilities, and the many sudden changes that seem to be the only “sure thing” in transplant, Transplant House gives guests a place where they finally feel they can pause and exhale.

And there are others there in that clearing with them who are carrying a similar burden. They share their experiences, strike up a friendship, and the weight they’ve been carrying lightens just a bit more.

It can be hard to quantify all that this House does for Transplant Families – to explain just how impactful it is for a transplant family to enter this community at one of the darkest moments in their lives and feel seen, heard, cared for as a whole person. Whether it’s meeting a physical need for care through dinners, caregiver massage, and reiki; a financial need through assistance finding fundraising sources and our Family Assistance Fund; or an emotional one through one-on-one counseling, a conversation between guests in the laundry room, and a caregiver walk around the neighborhood, the clearing they find when arriving here welcomes them as a whole person.

And some days the sun shines even brighter in that clearing and if you pause to listen, you can hear the ringing of the bell on our front porch.

Aaron Babcock, Manager of Communications and Annual Fund

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