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Penn's Transplant House: A Home Away From Home

Ashlee newberry picThe Penn Transplant Institute’s reputation draws patients from across the nation who are waiting for a second chance at life. It is the region’s leader in total number of organ transplants performed;  Penn transplant surgeons performed over 400 solid organ transplants during the 2011 fiscal year, including heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, and islet cell. The program, which also supports bone marrow and stem cell transplant, is ranked among the top 10 multi-organ centers in the country, boasting outcomes that consistently meet or exceed national averages.

Organ transplantation is one of medicine's true, life-saving miracles, but, for many patients and their families, receiving the good news of an organ match also causes anxiety, especially for those patients who don’t live in the area. Over one-third of Penn's transplant patients must travel more than 50 miles for their surgery, from as far as New England, the Carolinas and even Hawaii. All too often, for these patients, the joy of receiving a compatible organ is tempered by the harsh reality of extended hospital visits for the patient and travel expenses for the family.

And such challenges are not short-term. After they have received the transplants, organ recipients must return repeatedly for follow-up care -- as often as 50 times during the first two years post-surgery. For loved ones, the full transplantation experience adds up to a mountain of non-reimbursable hotel, transportation and meal expenses – at a time when emotions and finances are already stretched to a breaking point.

For the past year, the Clyde F. Barker Transplant House has helped ease these emotional and financial burdens for more than 300 of Penn’s pre- and post-transplant patients and their families, providing housing that is affordable, convenient, and comfortable. Located at 3940 Spruce Street -- just blocks from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- the sun-filled facility offers guests a spacious family room, a large, fully equipped modern kitchen, fitness and laundry rooms, and dining room. The 12 large bedroom suites upstairs feature flat-screen TVs and are each large enough to accommodate up to four adults. The House’s center courtyard provides a private outdoor area for guests to relax.

While the Transplant House offers many comforts, what helps makes it a home away from home are the outreach efforts by HUP employees. Since its opening last spring, several groups from throughout the hospital have volunteered as ‘guest chefs,’ preparing home-cooked dinners for guests that serve as a welcome respite from fast food or expensive restaurant meals. One group prepared a great Italian meal.  Another dinner featured a barbecue. Even HUP’s senior leaders – including the hospital’s executive director, chief financial officer, and chief operating officer -- took a turn.  Their turkey dinner – with the fixings– was a hit, with plenty leftover for sandwiches.  The funniest part, said CFO Diane Corrigan, occurred when they were eating the prepared dinner together. “One of the guests asked what we did at the hospital. They were clearly surprised when we told them! But it was a wonderful experience.”

The guests agree. A woman who recently underwent a kidney transplant joined guest chefs from Clinical Management and Social Work  for dinner earlier this week and spoke of the “very caring people here.” Her husband loved the camaraderie and support system he found at the House and the low cost.  “Our first night we spent $350 staying at a nearby hotel.”

Feedback from past guests express similar sentiments:

  • “Thank you again & again. Words cannot express our gratitude.”
  • “The atmosphere in the house is so quiet and comforting.”
  • “It was truly a blessing to have the Transplant house to come back to after so many hours spent in the hospital.”
  • “The staff and volunteers were so helpful and we appreciate all their efforts. We also met other families here and shared stories and information… thanks to all for providing this wonderful haven.”

There are many opportunities to volunteer at the Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House.  To find out how you can help, email or call 215-662-4540.


Photo caption:  Hospital employees Steph Hwang, Laurie Meadows, and Vern Willard volunteered as guest chefs in the Penn Transplant House.


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