The Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House
Over one-third of Penn's transplant patients must travel more than 50 miles for their surgery, some 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.
For the past year, the Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House has provided affordable, comfortable and convenient accommodations for nearly 300 of Penn’s pre- and post-transplant patients and their families. Located at 3940 Spruce Street, 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 make it a home away from home are the outreach efforts by HUP employees. Since the House opened 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.
Enrique Flores said the “great smells” from the Italian dinner he and several of the Rhoads 6 staff prepared at the House earlier this year drew in several guests, as did the Mexican-themed dinner hosted by MICU staff. Ashlee Newberry, a clinical nurse on the unit, said talking with the guests during dinner “opened our eyes” about transplants from the family’s point of view. “We sat with a woman whose husband was post-heart transplant and she was struggling. It brought a different perspective to hear what she was dealing with.”
The meals also “help to create a community feel,” said Denny DuPont, manager of Transplant Outreach and Communication, who prepared a meal with other members of Transplant’s management team. “It helps families get to know each other. They share their stories.”
Sallie Smith, a Heart Failure/Transplant social worker who coordinates monthly meals with staff from Clinical Resource Management & Social Work and the Heart and Vascular Center, agreed. “One of the best parts is seeing guests staying at the tables talking to each other when we’re leaving,” she said. “At one of our meals, a woman told us that she had been here a month and not talked to anyone. She said, ‘The meals have changed the way I look at this house.’”
Leaders from HUP Administration, including executive director Garry Scheib, chief financial officer Diane Corrigan, and chief operating officer Al Black –- as well as Pat Wren, AVP of Human Resources Operations -- prepared a turkey dinner for House guests. “Turkey is comfort food, like being home,” Corrigan said. “And there were plenty of leftovers for sandwiches.”
She said the funniest moment occurred when they were eating dinner together and one of the guests asked what they did at HUP. “They were clearly surprised when we told them,” she said, laughing, “but it was a wonderful experience for us … and a great team-building exercise.”
“Grabbing meals at the cafeteria gets tiring,” Smith said. “This is a population that needs people to care about them … a good meal and downtime.”
“The patients and families who stay at the Transplant House are so touched that employees are giving more,” said Kirsten King, operations manager at the Penn Transplant House. One woman who recently underwent a kidney transplant joined Smith’s group for dinner 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 expresses 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.”
Dinners aren’t the only employee outreach effort. Many departments held drives for nonperishable food and hospitality amenities at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the response was overwhelming. “It brought in an amazing amount of food,” King said. “In fact we still have some left!” And there were enough toiletries left over to make special hospitality baskets for people who stay in the rooms. The Call Center also donated boxes of dry goods early this year. “If someone checks in later at night, they may not feel like going out. It’s great to have foods like cereal and soup for them,” King said.
There are many opportunities for staff to volunteer at the Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House. To find out how you can help, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-662-4540.