Howie’s House

Coming up on Saturday, September 26th CareDx is hosting the Allocare Transplant Festival, a fun, interactive, virtual event meant to bring together members of the transplant community during this difficult period. The event will take place from 12 – 3 p.m. ET and will feature many different activities with guests from all over the transplant community.

The festival has a full agenda of events and activities, as well as multiple contests for attendees to participate in before and during the festival! Here is a full list of the live festival agenda, as well as the pre-event contests:

Pre-Event Contests (submissions due by September 19th)

To enter, click on the registration link below!

Live Festival Agenda


So what is CareDx? CareDx is a transplant focused company centered around providing healthcare solutions for transplant patients and caregivers both pre- and post- transplant journey. It is committed to improving transplant patient outcomes through innovative testing and is the leading partner in medicine for transplant patients.

Gift of Life Howie’s House is so excited to be partnering with CareDx for this special event. For more information and where to register, visit this website: https://bit.ly/caredxregistration

We hope to see you there!

From a young age, Kirby was always active. Born in Memphis and raised in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, she participated in many sports including dance, gymnastics, figure skating, track and field, diving, rowing and cheerleading. Kirby accomplished a dream of hers by qualifying for the 84’ Olympic trials for gymnastics, something she had been training for since the age of 10. 

However, Kirby began experiencing health complications which forced her to spend less time participating in the activities she loved. She even had to stop working. Kirby eventually found out she would need a life-saving kidney-liver transplant to survive.

Kirby and her husband Scott packed up and traveled from their home in New Jersey to Philadelphia to receive treatment at Einstein Hospital. She was admitted on June 3rd, her birthday, and was quickly put on the transplant list. She and Scott were hopeful that there she would receive her life-saving gift and the help they were both searching for.  

While Kirby was hospitalized, Scott stayed at the Howie’s House, which was recommended to him by his transplant social worker. Kirby soon received her precious gift of life. After a successful surgery, Kirby remained at the hospital for one month after her procedure and then joined Scott at the Howie’s House for a total of six weeks.   

“The staff members at the Howie’s House were always, happy, smiling and cheerful,” Kirby says. “When I arrived tried and weak in me wheelchair, they already knew my name and had everything I needed ready. It was peaceful, no beeping sounds from monitors and no unscheduled nurse visits at all hours of the day. I felt like I could exhale. I felt like I was home.”

Scott and Kirby loved the comfort of the Howie’s House and the tremendous support they received. Scott would often attend the support groups hosted by the Howie’s House’s social workers. “If Scott was in a hotel, he would have spiraled,” Kirby explains. “We were so grateful for the love and support from the House and other transplant families.”

Additionally, Scott and Kirby loved the convenience of home-cooked meals prepared every night by Howie’s House volunteers and engaging with other families that were also going through the transplant process. 

Kirby loved that conversation at the House was so open. “There was never a need to feel embarrassed because everyone staying at the Howie’s House had experienced something similar,” she shares. 

At the Howie’s House, Kirby was able to work on her physical therapy exercise in the fitness center. She was also encouraged to continue her occupational therapy on her journey back to normalcy. When it came time for Scott and Kirby to pack up their bags and head home, there was a moment of sadness; it was hard to leave.

“Everything happened so quickly,” Kirby says. “The Gift of Lift Howie’s House has been there for us on our journey, during and afterwards,” Scott explains.

Kirby and Scott still to this day share bonds with many of the families they met at the Howie’s House. They look forward to returning to see familiar faces when visiting for follow up transplant appointments and feeling the sense of community the Howie’s House provides. We look forward to seeing Scott and Kirby for their next visit here with us!

Since we opened our doors, Organ Recovery Systems (ORS) has been a proud supporter of the Howie’s House and has helped us care for transplant families in many ways!

“Supporting the transplant community is something I personally take to heart, and Gift of Life Howie’s House goes above and beyond by offering a comfortable and intimate residence for transplant patients and their families,” says Matthew Copithorne, Vice President, Sales and Marketing at ORS.

In 2011, ORS made a generous financial commitment to our mission by underwriting our kitchen – a capital campaign gift that helped us welcome transplant families home. Since then, many of their staff members have volunteered in our Home Cook Heroes Program to prepare home-cooked meals for our guests. ORS also generously supports our annual Kidney Open Golf Outing, which raises funds for our Adopt-A-Family Program.

More recently, they found another way to help by sending a generous donation of hand sanitizer!

“Partnering with Gift of Life Howie’s House has been so rewarding to us, and years later our team still counts down the days until we can visit with and cook for recipients and their families,” says Kayla Andalina, Marketing Manager.

ORS was founded on a passion to help improve patient outcomes in transplantation and honor the gift of life. Their support of the Howie’s House helps provide transplant patients and their family members with a place to call home while far from their own. We are so thankful for their partnership and look forward to serving transplant families with them in the future!

When Ashley saw a Facebook post about an ill member of her church family in need of a life-saving liver transplant, she couldn’t just scroll past it. “I felt this tug on my heart,” she says. “I felt like this was absolutely something I was supposed to do.”

Ashley, safe and sound in her room at the Howie’s House

Ashley was going to see if she could donate a portion of her liver. After testing, she was approved and thankful for the opportunity to save another’s life as a living-donor.

Ashley traveled 800 miles from where she was living in Atlanta, GA to Philadelphia, PA for the surgery. “I did a lot of research about the area and what places were available for living-donors to stay after surgery,” she says. “That’s how I found out about the Howie’s House.”

She checked in to the Howie’s House the night before her surgery and returned when she was discharged from the hospital to recover.

Ashley and her support person, Sheila, who was also able to stay at the Howie’s House

While Ashley was in Philadelphia, she had many people supporting her who were also able to stay at the Howie’s House.

“Another woman from my church, Sheila, became my support person,” Ashley says. “While I was in the hospital, the Howie’s House was an invaluable resource for her. When she was not with me, she was able to come back to shower, rest, and eat. She took advantage of the shuttle during this time and this was a huge blessing to her as she was not quite comfortable taking a taxi by herself.”

“I loved how friendly the staff was, how neat and clean the home was, and that they offered home-cooked meals in the evenings,” Sheila says. “I also loved being able to talk to other families about their loved ones.”

Sheila flew back home when Ashley was discharged. Ashley was able to have others visit the Howie’s House to support her.

Ashley with her recipient and “liver sister,” Denice

“The Howie’s House made the recovery easier. I was able to make friends with others on a transplant journey and this made me feel less alone and truly understood,” Ashley adds. “What they are doing to help transplant families is beautiful and more helpful than they may ever know.”

Ashley successfully became a living-donor and formed a close relationship with her recipient, Denice.

“My recipient and her family consider me family, and she calls me her ‘liver sister.’ Several months after our surgeries, she got to be present when her great-grandson was born. I have so loved seeing how she is living out her second chance at life!”

“I feel very blessed to have a living-donor,” says Denice. “I never feel like I could do enough to show how much she has given back to me. I can go places on my own and not worry about forgetting where I am. Ashley is one of the easiest people to talk to and is always willing to help anyone she can.”

Ashley living a normal, healthy life post-transplant

“Before my experience, I knew very little about organ donation or the importance of it,” Ashley says. “Going through this brought me together with others going through similar experiences and it really opened my eyes to how many people are out there waiting for a life-saving transplant. I did have some friends and family who weren’t as comfortable, but I just continued to talk with them about the importance of donating and what the process was going to look like for me. I would want people to know it’s really not as scary as it sounds! I’m three and a half years post-op and I live a normal, healthy life.”

Joanne, a liver recipient, leaves her mark on Joey’s racecar

On Thursday, October 3rd, NASCAR driver Joey Gase visited Gift of Life Howie’s House, inviting us to take part in his outreach to educate millions of NASCAR fans worldwide about the life-saving importance of organ and tissue donation.

As part of his Hand Prints of Hope event, 50 members of the transplant community covered the hood of Joey’s racecar with hand prints and special messages which he raced that weekend during the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Dover International Speedway in Dover, DE. NASCAR fans were drawn to the colorful hand prints, messages, and the Gift of Life Donor Program logo in the center.

“It turns a ton of heads at the race track. When people see the hand prints all over the car, they want to come up and ask us about it and we get to tell them,” Gase, 26, said during his speech at the event.

When Joey was 18 years old, his mother, Mary, passed away of a sudden brain aneurism and was an organ donor. She was able to save and transform the lives of 66 people.

A sweet message left with donor mom Mary’s hand print in memory of her son Eric, an organ donor

“Ever since that day, I wanted to do whatever I could to help raise awareness for organ donation and honor all those affected by it,” he said. “It’s not easy for the recipients, those on the waitlist, or the donor families. There are over 110,000 people on the waitlist nationwide and I want to do whatever I can to get that down to zero.”

We thank Joey and his team at Joey Gase Racing for their advocacy and support, and our friends at Medline for sponsoring this event!

Gift of Life Donor Program and MTF Biologics have partnered together for more than 20 years to bring the gift of life-changing tissues to patients throughout the U.S. and beyond. Now, MTF Biologics is spending time in the Howie’s House kitchen preparing meals for transplant families as part of our Home Cook Heroes program.

“The Howie’s House is one of the best ideas Howard Nathan has ever had,” says Martha Anderson, Executive Vice President of Donor Services at MTF Biologics. She has served on the Gift of Life Donor Program governing board for many years and supported the Howie’s House from its conception. MTF Biologics has underwritten the Howie’s House’s 4th Floor Lounge, and supported its annual Kidney Open Golf Outing and Donor Dash.

The team at MTF Biologics loves volunteering to help care for our families

Martha recently brought her executive team to visit the Howie’s House and they decided they wanted to get more involved. “It’s also an amazing place for our staff to give back, learn about donation, and continue supporting Gift of Life,” Martha explains. “We also really want to get a plate on the wall!”

The plates on the wall in our kitchen celebrate our Home Cook Heroes All-Stars, groups who volunteer at least 12 times a year (typically about once a month) to help take care of our families.

“The Howie’s House is an amazing home away from home for transplant patients and families. The staff is committed to doing everything they can to take care of them,” Martha says. “Everyone from MTF Biologics who comes down to cook loves it, feels humbled, and appreciates the opportunity to give back.”

Not only does MTF Biologics come in to cook, but sometimes, they provide entertainment as well! MTF Biologic’s resident band, The Bone Tones, led by President and CEO Joe Yaccarino, came to perform during dinner one night and was invited back to play at the Howie’s House’s annual President’s Reception.

“They were really happy to come to the Howie’s House and play,” Martha says.

Guests enjoying entertainment provided by MTF Biologics’ resident band, The Bone Tones

MTF Biologics is well on their way to joining our Home Cook Heroes All-Stars with a plate of their own on the wall. They’ve already come in 10 times this year and have prepared Mexican and Italian dinners as well as baked goods and brunch. We are so thankful for their commitment to our mission and look forward to see what they whip up next!

When Donna Jones was diagnosed with three different, simultaneous lung infections, the mother of four found herself in need of her children’s care and a “home away from home.”

“I’ve always been a very active mom and grandmother,” Donna says. “But as I got sicker and sicker, I was really grateful to have them be there for me.”

As Donna’s condition worsened, her daughter Nicole and her siblings decided together it would be best for their mom to have someone stay with and care for her. Nicole offered to move in with her mom and help take care of her, her pets, and her house.

Donna suffered a collapsed lung in 2012 and was able to recover well. Although she was moving more slowly than she was used to, she was able to attend three of her children’s weddings and continue working from home as an IT consultant.

Nicole and Donna in the Howie’s House dining room

Tragedy struck again on New Year’s Eve in 2015 when Donna suffered another collapsed lung. This time, her doctors suggested she consider a lung transplant. She was listed in 2017. Donna would remain on oxygen and require around the clock care until an organ became available for her.

Thankfully, Nicole was able to be by her mom’s side.

Donna received “the call” that a donor organ had become available in December of 2018 and together, she and Nicole quickly left their home in Maryland to get to Philadelphia. As soon as they arrived at the hospital, Donna was immediately taken to surgery to receive her precious gift of life. Nicole reassured her siblings: “I got mom,” she said.

Two of Donna’s other three children were able to arrive in Philadelphia following the procedure.

After her transplant, Donna spent 21 days in the ICU and 18 days in inpatient therapy. Afterwards, she and Nicole came to stay at Gift of Life Howie’s House so she could remain close to her doctors.

“I would recommend this place to anyone—it’s a comforting and loving environment,” Nicole says. “You get to talk to people at all points in the transplant journey.”

Although Nicole was the only one of Donna’s children to stay with her at the Howie’s House, the others felt so comforted knowing that their mother had a safe place to stay.

“I sent them photos and took them on a video tour,” Nicole says. “Instantly, they all felt at ease knowing mom and I were okay.”

“You make a family here,” Donna adds. “We all exchange phone numbers. You learn from others. You encourage them. You can really feel the love.”

Although all of Donna’s children could not be at her side as Nicole was, they all supported their mother in different ways. While she was in the ICU after her transplant, they visited and brought her grandchildren down to keep her company.

To help her grandson understand what happened to his grandmother, one of Donna’s daughters wrote the children’s book “My Nonna’s Boo Boo” to teach him about her lung transplant.

Donna and her four children

Donna’s transplant journey brought her and her children closer together. “This was a very emotional journey,” Nicole says. “I don’t regret anything, especially if it means that I can have my mom around. I just want her to get back to the person she misses being.”

“I am so grateful to have Nicole in my life,” Donna says. “She does everything for me. I am so blessed.”

Here at the Howie’s House, mothers and daughters like Donna and Nicole can stay together and take care of each other while they navigate the difficult transplant journey. Other family members can also find comfort in knowing their loved one has a safe place to stay during a stressful time. Donna was able to recover after receiving her precious gift of life from an incredibly selfless donor and Nicole was not only able to take care of her, but find the comfort and support she needed as her mom’s caregiver, too.

This Mother’s Day, you can honor a special mother, sister, or woman in your life by making a gift to support the Howie’s House, a “home away from home” to many mothers and daughters like Donna and Nicole. Consider honoring someone all year along by making a monthly gift. Our Welcome Home Club for monthly giving helps make sure patients and their families have a safe, supportive space to return to at the end of each day—all year round.

Make Your Gift Here!

We had a very special wish granted…

…we have new laundry machines!

Wanda, a Howie’s House guest, does her laundry in our laundry facility

Last fall, our friends from Hercules, a laundry room equipment provider from Long Island, NY, generously donated five brand new washer and dryer sets to the Howie’s House!

Imagine having to suddenly relocate to a city you’ve never been to—you have to find a place to stay, food to eat…the last thing on your mind may be where to wash your clothes. You might not even have detergent, a laundry basket, or quarters to put into machines at the laundromat.

Because our guests can take the stairs or elevator right to our laundry room, they don’t have to worry about how to get their personal belongings to and from a laundromat. This convenience helps make the Howie’s House feel like “home” and gives our guests more time to focus on what’s most important—taking care of themselves and their loved ones.

“What the Gift of Life Howie’s House provides to its residents and their families, in terms of support and inspiration, is truly heartwarming,” Andrew May, President and CEO at Hercules, says.

Joe Kauffman, Howie’s House Manager, and Bob Marquart, Director of Facilities, with Tom Jeppestol and Barry Heller from Hercules Laundry

“After our Hercules Account Manager, Tom Jeppestol, brought to my attention the needs of the Howie’s House with respect to their laundry facility, I didn’t hesitate for a minute in determining how we could support such a worthwhile organization. The patients and their families certainly have enough to deal with, waiting for transplants and follow-up appointments. It’s my pleasure to be able to help make their stay at Howie’s House as comfortable and stress-free as possible.”

The new washers and dryers will allow our guests to do their laundry for free during their stay. They can put their clothes in the wash, head back to their rooms or make a snack in the kitchen, and come right back down when they’re ready to be switched.

Wanda does not have to worry about finding a laundromat or getting her personal items there—she can do her laundry right here at the Howie’s House

Thank you so much to Andrew and everyone else at Hercules who made this wonderful gift possible!

Are you from an organization looking to give a charitable gift? At the Howie’s House, we can always use a hand to help serve our transplant families. If you’re interested in making a gift, please contact Sara Cohen, Development Manager, by email at scohen@giftoflifefamilyhouse.org or phone at 267-546-9800.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we’re feeling stressed or anxious, or we’ve just had a rough day, sometimes what makes it all better is spending some time with our pets.

Debra and her certified therapy dog, Carmen

Unfortunately, many transplant families are separated from theirs’ because they have to travel a long way from home to receive life-saving treatment.

That’s why as part of our Caregiver Lifeline Program, we bring in therapy dogs several times each month to spend time with our guests.

“There are some studies suggesting that petting animals can help reduce stress and anxiety,” says Talia, our social worker.

“Transplant patients and families staying at the Howie’s House are under tremendous stress and away from their own support networks at home, including their own pets. Therapy dogs give the families an opportunity to forget the stressful parts of the transplant journey, even just for a few moments,” she adds.

Carmen patiently waits to spend time with our guests

Carmen and Debra have been visiting our guests since we opened our doors in 2011.

When Debra pulls up into the Howie’s House parking lot, Carmen wags her tail in excitement. They both walk through the doors, greet our staff at the Front Desk, and then Carmen runs excitedly to our social worker Talia’s office to greet her.

Carmen was rescued from Puerto Rico and brought to the United States when she was just a few months old. When Debra and her husband first met Carmen, she ran right up to them, jumped in their laps, and licked their faces. Now she is 11 years old and has been part of the family ever since!

Carmen has never taken an obedience class before but passed her therapy dog certification with ease. “She’s so loving and giving,” Debra explains. “She just knows who needs her and what to do for that person.”

During their visits, Carmen and Debra sit in our living room and wait for our guests to stop by for some quality time. Carmen is always so happy to greet everyone who comes to say hello! She gives tons of kisses, happily wags her tail, and is even willing to just sit quietly by your side for a little while.

Carmen loves getting to know our guests

Kathy, a Howie’s House guest, loves hanging out with Carmen. “Being with Carmen is relaxing,” she says. “It’s positive therapy for me.”

Kathy also mentions missing her own dog, a Labrador named Molly, who is staying with her sister while she is away from home. “I miss her a lot,” she says. “I love seeing my son with Carmen because I know he misses Molly, too.”

Esther, another guest, agrees: “When you have so much going on all at once, sitting there with a dog is so comforting,” she says. “I’ve missed my dogs who are still at home while I’m here. Being with Carmen lets you forget it all for a little while.”

Debra loves talking to our guests and learning about themselves and their families—and even their dogs!

“Everybody has a dog story,” she says. “Hanging out with Carmen gives them the chance to talk about something or someone they love.”

Our guests love spending time with Carmen when she comes to visit

Carmen also visits schools to help students de-stress during exams, and even takes part in a program where children learning to read can practice reading to her.

Debra recalls when she saw two children waiting in the window for Carmen to walk in, and she immediately ran over and began kissing them.

“I get so excited when people who’ve had a long day see Carmen,” she says. “It makes them feel better. I wish every place had a therapy dog program.”

The Howie’s House’s Caregiver Lifeline Program provides services specifically tailored to the needs of organ transplant patients, family members, and caregivers inside and outside the walls of the Howie’s House.

Carmen relaxes as a guest reads her a story at the Howie’s House

Carmen is just one of the many therapy dogs we invite to spend time with our guests to help them relax after a stressful day, and also to provide another opportunity for guests to connect with each other. They have an important impact on our guests’ well-being and we look forward to having them every time they come to visit!

Are you interested in bringing your therapy dog to visit our transplant families at the Howie’s House? Contact our social worker, Talia, at tgiordano@giftoflifefamilyhouse.org.

To receive her life-saving liver transplant, Karen Wolbach was airlifted from her home in Burlington, Vermont to a treatment center here in Philadelphia. Her husband and caregiver, Richard, had just four hours to alert friends and family, pack a bag, find a place to stay, and make arrangements for someone to look after their home before the air ambulance arrived.

“There was no time for decisions,” Richard said. “We just got on the plane with the nurse, medical assistant, and the pilots. Everything seemed to move in slow motion.”

Richard and Karen with their son, Ryan, enjoying their time together outdoors

Karen had been getting sicker and sicker. She was growing extremely fatigued, nauseous, lost her appetite, and was beginning to jaundice. She no longer had the energy to take walks outside with her family, meet up with her friends for lunch, watch her son perform as a clarinetist, and had to resign from her job as a radiologic technologist because she was too weak to work.

Her need for a transplant had not just turned her life upside down, but had suddenly relocated her and her husband over 350 miles away to a city neither had ever been to before.

While Karen was in the hospital, Richard needed to find a place to stay. He initially booked a week-long hotel stay so he could be close to Karen while she was in the hospital, but with expensive city hotel prices, he knew he could not afford those accommodations for long.

Thankfully, someone on Karen’s transplant team told him about the Howie’s House. He gave us a call and there was a room available for him.

“A lot of people don’t realize that being a caregiver comes with a tremendous amount of stress,” he says. “It can be so overwhelming, but the Howie’s House took the worry out of my day so I could focus on caring for my wife.”

At the Howie’s House, Richard had access to all of the supportive services we offer, including a private guest room, a warm, home-cooked meal each evening, free shuttle service to and from the hospital Karen was receiving treatment in, counseling from our licensed social worker, and support from a network of other families who understood what he was going through—all for just $40 per night.

The support Karen and Richard gave each other by being close together is invaluable to the transplant journey

Karen received her second chance at life thanks to an incredibly selfless donor shortly after she and Richard were airlifted to Philadelphia. She was able to join Richard at the Howie’s House for two weeks before they were given the OK to go back home.

While Karen was here, she too was able to rest. Each night, dinner was waiting for her as she came down to the kitchen. She hopped on the shuttle’s morning run when she had to see her doctors at the hospital. She was also able to talk with our social worker and other transplant families about what she was feeling.

“I wasn’t just healing physically, but I was healing emotionally,” she explains. “It was very therapeutic to sit down and share stories. It reminded me that I am not alone. If we had to stay in a hotel, we would never have gotten this kind of support.”

Karen and Sister May, a family friend, in the Howie’s House dining room

“The Howie’s House has helped me heal, too,” Richard says. “We felt a little apprehensive coming back to Philadelphia for Karen’s follow-up appointments after all that’s happened, but once we came back to the Howie’s House, it was like we were home again.”

Now that Karen’s health has improved, she wants to get back to work and volunteer in her community, and spend time with her family.

Karen and Richard were away from their home for four months while Karen received her life-saving transplant and recovered here at the Howie’s House. At the beginning of their journey to Philadelphia, they had no idea how long they’d be away from home or how they’d afford to stay together and support each other during this difficult, scary time.

Karen and Richard received the support they needed on their transplant journey here at the Howie’s House

Without the Howie’s House, Richard and Karen may have had to find an apartment, take cabs or public transportation to and from the hospital each day, find meals and a place to wash their clothes, and may not have met any other families on the transplant journey who could offer them friendship and support. Richard may not have even been able to stay by Karen’s side while she was in the hospital.

At the Howie’s House, they both received the support they needed.

When you make a gift to the Howie’s House, you’ll help provide this support to countless other transplant families who are anxious, frustrated, and in need of support.

Will you make a gift to help families like Karen and Richard’s during one of the most difficult times in their lives?

 

 

 

 

News & Events

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email updates featuring transplant stories of hope and ways you can get involved with the Howie's House.