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Housing for transplant families

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Two groups are neck and neck to build the region’s first temporary housing dedicated to families of organ-transplant patients.


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The Gift of Life organ donor program recently broke ground on its future family house. The University of Pennsylvania plans to start digging the foundation for its house by year’s end.

The houses are modeled after Ronald McDonald homes, which accommodate families who have children in the hospital.

Debra Roberts is the director of the Gift of Life family house. She says patients come from as far as Europe to get treatment at the Delaware Valley’s eight transplant centers.

Roberts: When they come in, the patient gets extraordinary care. The family members are always left on their own to figure out how am I going to stay near my patient and support them. Either hotels, or parking, or gas, meals. Their out of pocket expenses just evaporate any money that they possibly have.

Both houses have a focus on communal areas, which Roberts says will help families bond over the difficult experience of transplant.

Kevin Mahoney is Penn Health System’s chief administrative officer.

Mahoney: The garden in the center will be a reflective place where people can gather. Maybe your spouse doesn’t want to talk about what you’re going through, but you want to talk about it. So having another family going through similar circumstances, that connection we think is very important.

Gift of Life will charge a small fee for families who stay at the house, which will be near Center City. Penn’s house will be free.

Both groups say the need for these houses has been around for a long time, and planning and funding finally came together to get them built.

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