A Home Away From Home for Transplant Patients

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MTT News's picture
Mila Hayes-Morales

It is almost time for lunch, so the kitchen at Restoring Hope Transplant House it is getting loud. Snacks are already set out on the kitchen counter. Coffee is brewing, as is conversation.

“Some people thinks this is a sad place because there is a lot of stress,” explains Cindy Herbst,  the transplant home’s executive director. “But this is a wonderful place. It really reminds you of the good in people.”

At the corner of Terrace Avenue and Parameter Street stands an old Victorian house that many transplants families and patients have called home.

Many people walk by, because the library, a bus stop and downtown Middleton are just a stone’s throw away. The Restoring Hope Transplant House was born in 2006 when executive director Cindy Herbst’s family went through a transplant process firsthand.

“We saw the value of having an affordable home, but better than being affordable was being in a community of people who have gone through the same things, so you have an instant group of friends that understood better what was happening on a day-to-day basis in your family,” said Herbst.

Restoring Hope has five guest rooms, each with a double and twin bed, five  bathrooms – three with showers, a community kitchen, on-site laundry, spacious living rooms on both floors with an ample supply of books, transplant related information and material, big screen televisions with cable TV for community use, Wi-Fi throughout the house, a great front porch outfitted with relaxing new furniture, an office and on-site living quarters for round the clock staff.

The house was purchased a decade ago by a non-profit Herbst’s family formed. It took years to get it up and running.

Over the past four years, Restoring Hope has welcomed families from 26 states and two countries.

They can operate thanks to “the kindness of other hearts” said Herbst.

“We do not believe that we would be open and serving guests if we were not in Middleton,” she said.

Some neighbors support the house by dropping off produce in the summer time, donating cleaning supplies, or inviting guests to relax in their yards. Even local restaurants understand the specific necessities of the transplant families.

“Restaurants are very in tune with our families needing to have their food very hot - they can’t be in a restaurant very long because they have a compromised [immune system]” Herbst said.

Walking through the house, there is a definite feeling of home and even peace. The common area has a long table where guests can read, write and even color. There is a sense of tranquility and an undeniable atmosphere of comfort.

“Middleton makes them feel like they are home, makes them feel that they are cared for; it is a nice to get up and walk around,” commented Herbst with a smile of satisfaction.

Their mission is very clear, she added: “We are here to serve, to be support for them, to be welcoming, no matter how they come to the house.”

Restoring Hope is a place to rest and embrace the future for transplant patients and families who had a second chance to live. That is a huge responsibility for Herbst and her crew, but they say they put the patients and caregivers first. They alleviate the stress and fear of an unknown future through casual conversations and listening careful to every family’s needs.

“People come afraid, stressed, away from anyone they know - how do you support them in this journey? How do we take care of the caregiver so they are not so worn out they cannot be a caregiver. Who listens to them when they are anxious or overtired? They are leaving grandkids and family, it is our job to just be family,” Herbst said.

Some caregivers stay during the transplant because they are far away from home, at other times patients stay after the transplant for recovery proposes because they need a calm and sanitized environment

“We don’t kick people out,” said Herbst. “Once you are here people have to wait for you to go. Usually things are balanced very well.”

Restoring Hope is planning to expand this year, adding 11 more rooms for a total of 16.

And like any other non profit, Restoring Hope Transplant House is in need of funding at all times. Because they serve a very small group of the community, funding can be difficult to come by.

“[People] can say, ‘Why would we support [Restoring Hope] if we are never going to use it?’ but they support Ronald McDonald House, they support [Middleton Outreach Ministry], and not everyone comes to get food at MOM.  A good community helps others.”

The fact is that anyone can be in need of a transplant at any point. Transplants are not rare in the medical field today, and they are more and more commonly used today.

There are 2,300 people in Wisconsin who are waiting for an organ or tissue donation right now, and an average of 22 people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of shortage of donated organs, according to the  US Department of Health and Human Services.

Herbst has many happily ending stories to tell, but some of them stay in her heart for even longer than others.

She said one of her favorites is the tale of a mom and her adopted daughter, who was blind. The daughter donated her kidney to save her adopted mother’s life.

“She was a perfect match even though she was not her birth daughter,” said Herbst.

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