There’s No Place Like Home

L. Frank Baum made the line famous over 100 years ago in The Wizard of Oz, but it still holds true today. There is no place like home, but to a family in the midst of a health crisis, the Renucci Hospitality House is a welcoming refuge.

So often, a life threatening illness or medical emergency happens far from home, or home is far from the best health care available. Dealing with the crisis becomes all-consuming for the patient’s family, leaving little time, energy or financial resources for coordinating life’s daily necessities. Families are unprepared for extended stays, without personal items, accommodations, or supervision for smaller children for the duration of a loved one’s treatment or recovery.

It is generally accepted that healing happens faster when loved ones are nearby, especially for children. The average cost of hotel accommodations in Grand Rapids is about $85 per night, plus food, parking and travel to and from the hospital. With an average stay in the hospital lasting several weeks, keeping family nearby for the duration of treatment can quickly become financially draining. Add to that the worry of covering health care costs, and the situation can become overwhelming. At the Renucci Hospitality House, accommodations are available for $20 per room, per night, but no one is turned away because of their inability to pay.

We may wish there was no need for this type of facility, but all of the guests staying at Renucci Hospitality House are forever grateful that such a place exists.

One Family’s Story

Mary Jones and her 14-month-old son, John, have been guests at Renucci Hospitality House for eight weeks. John was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in early October, 2006, after several visits to clinics, his pediatrician and his family doctor. After his diagnosis, he was admitted to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, where he underwent surgery and multiple MRI’s. John’s treatment has also included chemotherapy, a cord blood transplant, and a port in his chest. John is still suffering from aspiration problems, the muscles in his throat are weak due to the chemotherapy and surgery, so food tends to get into his windpipe instead of going down his throat.

As Mary discusses these past few weeks, John plays nearby with some friends he has made at Renucci. He wears a mask to assist with his breathing and is on prednisone, Mary says, which affects his moods. However, John seems very happy today as he pauses to blow a kiss to his mom before returning to the shiny red wagon he is sharing with his new friend.

Mary and John are from the Douglas area, about 45 miles from the hospital. The daily drive was exhausting, especially during poor weather, and staying focused on her son’s medical problems during the emotional roller coaster made it impossible to concentrate on anything else. Staying at Renucci Hospitality House eliminated the worry about where to stay, where to eat, and saved driving time so that she could spend more time with John.

Mary tried another facility, but found the Renucci Hospitality House met their needs better because it is attached to the hospital. John can now spend evenings with Mary in Renucci’s comfortable family room, where there are other children and family members can visit anytime. John’s grandmother has come to stay with them on a few occasions, giving Mary much needed moral support and John the special love and affection he can only get from his grandmother. Even with his ongoing health issues, John’s medical outlook is good.

Mary explains how stressful it is to have a baby in the hospital; not having to drive back and forth from Douglas has been a blessing. With a fully functioning kitchen, living room, and private bedrooms, Renucci Hospitality House is like a home away from home.

“We’re very happy here, this place is the best”.

Another story is that of Knoah. He suffers from achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. The following is taken from his mother’s online diary, which details what its like to raise a child with achondroplasia.

We left today at 1 p.m. or so and we got up here at about 6 p.m. (Grand Rapids). We made a detour to the hospital in Dearborn to pick up some records. We are staying at a place called Renucci Hospitality House. It is for families who have to travel further than 30 miles and it only costs $25. It is amazing! The rooms are like hotel rooms and they have a fully stocked kitchen, playroom, computer rooms, and laundry rooms. Just wonderful. It is 1 a.m. so I will write more at a later date. Will has Knoah and is getting him to sleep. I am lucky to have him for a husband. He loves his kids, he loves me, he is special. More later!

The Renucci Hospitality House Story

The Renucci Hospitality House was built by philanthropy in 1999 with a generous gift from the Renucci family, Peter and Patricia Renucci, along with their sons John Renucci, M.D., and Paul Renucci. The Renucci family believes that family and community are important values, and their gift of $1.6 million toward the new hospitality house was their way to say thank you to a community that had done so much for them. When Paul was born prematurely in 1968, he was in a neonatal unit. Pat Renucci says, “We know the agony of standing helplessly beside a hospital bed as your child’s life hangs in the balance. It’s not a time to worry about where you’re going to sleep that night.” Their generous gift ensures that no other family will have that worry.

In addition to providing comfortable and convenient accommodations, the Renucci Hospitality House provides the following family-centered services that help families cope with their loved one’s health crisis:

  • Pastoral Care
  • Child Life (helping children cope with illness or injury through play)
  • Social Work
  • Pediatric Oncology Resource Team (supporting parents of children with cancer)
  • 24-hour a day staff support to provide help whenever it is needed

Destination Health Care

Spectrum Health Hospital’s mission is to be the nation’s highest quality and most successful health care enterprise by 2010, making Grand Rapids a health care destination and creating an even greater demand for the services offered by the Renucci Hospitality House.

The Renucci Hospitably House is fully supported by generous and caring donors. A gift of just $100 can help a family in need for five days. If you would like to make a contribution of your time, or a financial donation, please call the Renucci Hospitality House at (616) 391-1790 or visit us on the Web at spectrum-health.org/renucci.