GALVESTON, Texas—Patients coming to University of Texas Medical Branch for lifesaving surgeries and treatments—like 48-year-old Thomas Davis for his second heart transplant—often live too far away to travel back and forth for the weeks, sometimes months, of follow-up therapies required to return to a healthy life.
Or perhaps, like Davis when his first transplanted heart stopped working, they are sick from their disease, awaiting a transplant and need to be close to the hospital.
The Galveston County Daily News reports Galveston Baptist Hospitality House, a small charitable organization, has provided no-cost temporary housing to Davis, who lives in Palestine, and at times to his parents and sister, providing a lifeline to this family and many others over the nearly 20 years the house has operated.
"I had my second transplant on Oct. 9. I'm 49 days out," Davis recently said. "I've got a few complications and am not quite healed up, but I can tell it's a good heart. It's perfect."
Several days a week, if the weather's good, Davis walks the six blocks from the hospitality house he has called home for most of the past year, to a clinic at the medical branch where he is catheterized, biopsied and tested to make sure his body is not rejecting the new heart, to receive physical therapy for his weakened muscles, and to regulate the critical anti-rejection medications he requires.
"Being able to stay here has been a real blessing," Davis said. "For one thing, they take care of the bills."
For many families, the cost of coming to Galveston to be near their families when medical crises occur is prohibitive. Bill Purdy, director of the Galveston Baptist Association that oversees the hospitality house and pastor of Central Community Church on the island, said there is far more need for the free ministry than there are resources available.
"Even if you have money or you're financially stable, by the time you come, say, from Dallas, and you pay for a hotel and meals out every night, you can go through your money pretty fast," Purdy said.
Most residents of Galveston Baptist Hospitality House come from upper East Texas or the Beaumont area, Purdy said. The small house in Galveston can accommodate three people, usually a patient and family members, and the association runs a second residence in La Marque that can accommodate two patients who share a common living area and kitchen.
"We also have a nice RV that we want to put in Bayou Vista so more patients can stay close by," Purdy said. "We never have enough places. We're full most of the time."
Purdy and his association have had blueprints drawn up for a 12-room facility they hope to build one day if they are able to raise the money, and they would gladly accept the donation of a house, he said. Their ultimate goal is to house as many patients, like Davis, as possible.
A GoFundMe campaign is set up to raise money the organization needs for repairs at both of its facilities. McCoy's Building Supply has donated some needed materials as well as cash for the cause, according to the fundraising site.
"In a couple of months, they'll let me go and the next person, with liver disease or cancer or whatever, they'll have a place to relax and heal up," Davis said. He is impatient with the weakness in his right hand that makes it impossible for him to hold a hammer or a nail gun. If he had his way, he'd be building custom homes, as he did before he got sick.
"Maybe God put this pain on me to slow me down a little bit," he said. "I'm gonna take my time to heal up.
"This place has made it possible for me to do that."