Favorite Guest Moments

Guests submitted their favorite memory and photo during their stay at the Howie's House.


Past Gift of Life Howie’s House guests reflect on the positive aspects of their transplant journey while providing encouragement to other transplant families.

Submitted by: Martina Wheeler

I was 32 when I first got sick. I was in and out of the local hospital for over a year. Then I spent 5 months in Danville. 10 Days after I was released I was rushed to University Pennsylvania Hospital. I was 34 and found I needed a liver transplant and cervical cancer. I had a 25% chance without a transplant. It was a good thing I was always built tough and too darn stubborn not to fight. It wasn’t easy, 3 hours from home.. Alone a lot of the time, I was okay with that. Towards the end, I put it in God’s hands. Then I received a last second Hail Mary miracle. My family rushed down, in a state of shock because they didn’t expect me to pull through. As I said earlier I am built tough. It was March, and the weather was just starting to get nice. I lived 3 hours away so there was no way I could go back and forth. After all those months I wanted out!! The sun was almost teasing me. Thankfully they had room at the Gift of Life house. I was blessed to spend 10 days there. The amazing staff, the councilors ready and completely understood my feelings. I was having a hard time with feelings and the Darn steroids. The counselor sat me down and reminded me this is the first of many days ahead both good and bad, and they were ALWAYS there if I needed to talk. I was blown away by the understanding and compassion among the staff and other residents there. I met a few inspiring patients that shared their story and made me feel that I was never alone in this, and I was a survivor. I was one of the lucky people given the Gift of life.  Plus I thanked God and the staff as much as I could because I was done with the awful Hospital food!! I will always be forever thankful for those 10 days also to adjust. And here I am 4 years later back to work full time and getting to see my son Peter grow up. A gift and blessing words cannot explain.”The day Wendy was released from the hospital and was able to stay at the family house and we met some wonderful people and made some great friends. The staff and facilities are excellent!!!! Thank you for this awesome place to call home in the most difficult time.”

Submitted by: Nancy Robitzski

“I received my kidney transplant at UPenn a little more than five years. I live in Staten Island NY. I stayed at Gift of Life Howie’s House several times since then I don’t want to sound too dramatic but this facility saved my life after the operation. It was impossible for me to travel for doctors’ appointments in PA.  I, unfortunately, needed to stay longer than I anticipated I am much better. The room and other facilities were comfortable and attractive. The shuttle and the drivers made me feel very safe. The whole staff made me smile when I sometimes did not feel like it. But the food, the people who provided meals were fabulous; the menu was delicious and ever-changing.  I looked forward to dinner every night even when I didn’t feel well. Whenever I think back to my experiences, I never forget to say a huge ‘thank you’ for this wonderful place!”

Submitted by: Jeff Campbell

“The day Wendy was released from the hospital and was able to stay at the house and we met some wonderful people and made some great friends. The staff and facilities are excellent!!!! Thank you for this awesome place to call home in the most difficult time.”

Submitted by: David Schauber

“After a long drive to Philadelphia for a day of post-transplant hospital tests & appointments I walked into Gift of Life. There I saw my ICU nurse who cared for me during my transplant dressed for GOL’s Hawaiian luau night. She and other volunteers had prepared a delicious meal and once again was caring for & serving all of us.  It was heartwarming to see her, the GOL staff & hear their encouraging words!”

Submitted by: Andrew Vavra

“I have two favorite memories of the house.  The first one is when I returned two years after my transplant with a group of my friends from work to bake cookies for the guests staying there that week.  It was a very rewarding experience and it felt great to “”pay it forward.” My second memory is fairly recent when a group of transplant recipients living donors  and donor family members from the area joined Gift of Life’s Colleen Duran this past February for WHYY’s annual membership drive on National Organ Donor Day.  It was wonderful meeting others who have made the journey and is something I look forward to repeating.”

Submitted by: Patty Sigur

“My daughter Nicole Kohr underwent her double lung transplant at Penn in June of 2019. The transplant house was such a special and healing place for all of us.”

Submitted by: Nicole Ward

“The house was our home away from home for 3 months while waiting for a transplant and a military transfer for my husband from Florida to New Jersey. In those 3 months our kids got to see their first snow, we celebrated Easter, one little boy’s second birthday, and Mother’s Day. We will always hold the house dear for being there for us during such an uncertain and challenging time.”

Submitted by: Joan Shuck

“I found it very comforting at Gift of Life Howie’s House. I met some people that were going through similar situations and we would talk about the ups and downs. Talking helped me a great deal.”

Submitted by: Linda Ciota

“The first time I went to the house it was for my evaluation for a lung transplant. My doctor had said go for the testing and get on their radar. I had no idea how sick I really was then. On my first day of testing I was told my lungs were functioning at 30% and I had a life expectancy of 3 to 5 years. I was also giving the survival statistics for post-transplant and they aren’t that great either. I was 53 had a daughter still in college and my son was just starting his career.  I had lost both my sister in law and my mother that year and I thought I wasn’t going to make it emotionally through the week. When I got to the house that evening we spoke to the social worker she calmed me down and put some of the statistics in a better light. She also said I should try to talk to the other guests at dinner that evening.  She said people who were post-transplant could give me some prospective.  I spoke to a few family members and transplant patients that night and connected with two guests going through the same testing as me. That was December 2017. I have been listed since March 2018. I am still pre-transplant but have been back Gift of Life Howie’s House for many of my doctor visits.”

Submitted by: Dustin Myers

“I don’t have just one story or memory of the Gift of Life Howie’s House but I’ll share a few. I was here from December 30th through the middle of February. I had received a liver transplant and was there to stay while I healed and went to doctors’ appointments twice a week. During that time I met caring and wonderful staff counselors and shuttle drivers. The home cook heroes always provided yummy dinners every evening which was something to look forward too. Another thing that always stuck out was the never ending baked goods and sweets they always seemed to have I felt like a big kid whenever I wandered into the kitchen and took a treat!! I’m very thankful for the Gift of Life Howie’s House and its staff and volunteers.”

Submitted by: Angelina Bagu

“I can’t explain one memory alone it’s too much to be thankful and grateful to have been honored with the love and caring I received in your place. You guys rock from staff to visitors and my new found family friends xoxoxo”

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