Hope is here for cancer patients from out of town

November 7, 2008
By

JOHN SWAN


Gazette Photo by John SwanDirector Bryan Harter (center) of JP helps volunteers Chris Ruggeri and Barbara Davis shake down one of the 40 suites forf out-of-town patients getting extended treatment at the recently opened AstraZeneca Hope Lodge run by the American Cancer Society at 125 S. Huntington Ave.

S. HUNTINGTON AVE.—Cancer. Perhaps no word strikes more fear in the hearts of patients or their families, especially if medical providers are not close.

But there is now a helping hand for some out-of-towners who come to Boston to get treatment. The American Cancer Society (ACS) opened the AstraZeneca Hope Lodge at 125 S. Huntington Ave. last week to offer 40 private suites of temporary housing for patients and their caregivers or family members. The lodge is located within easy reach of the Longwood Medical Area (LMA) off Huntington Avenue.

“There are so many people outside the city struggling with treatments, and the Hope Lodge will offer a supportive environment for them to rest and heal,” said Bryan Harter, facility director and a JP resident who has worked as a licensed social worker at the LMA-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for the past three years.

As a clinician, Harter said, his directorship “gives me the opportunity to help these patients now in a different way. It’s very exciting.”

Each suite has a small living room, a bedroom with beds for the patient and their caregiver, a private bath and cable TV.

The 48,000-square-foot lodge offers shared cooking and dining areas, two libraries, a screening room, two solariums on each floor and an outdoor healing garden. All paints and rugs are low-toxin. Patients also receive free transportation to hospitals, counseling and other support services.

Guests are referred by area hospitals or can contact the Hope Lodge directly at 800-227-2345. They are chosen on a first-come-first-served basis without any income consideration, but must live more than 40 miles outside Boston. The lodge is geared to adults, but, Harter said, children would be admitted sometimes, depending on the circumstances.

The new state-of-the-art facility sits on the site of the former Vincent Memorial Hospital built in 1907, and later, the former Longwood Hospital.

Janet McGrail, vice president for the Massachusetts Cancer Society’s health initiatives, said she has a special connection to the site and project. “I was born here when it was the old Longwood Hospital, and so the Hope Lodge is especially meaningful to me,” she said.

McGrail went on to say that, in addition to providing accommodations for out-of-town patients, “The lodge provides an important social piece, connecting [patients] with each other to help them cope with their cancer treatments.”

She estimated that the average stay for guests will be six to 12 weeks.

“We also made a commitment early in the building phase to open up our resource area and conference room to the community,” she said.

The $27 million project has raised all but $1 million needed to pay for the lodge, including the $7 million naming gift from AstraZeneca. The ACS has also applied to the US Green Building Council for LEEDS gold certification, citing their solar hot water system and maximum use of natural light, among other environmental attributes.

The Hope Lodge’s 40 suites now make a total of 101 such hospitality rooms available in the city. This is the third ACS Hope Lodge in New England, and the 28th in the country.

“We definitely need many more facilities like this,” said Harter. “But our plans do call for having a total of 50 nationwide by 2015.

“It’s a real privilege to work with this organization,” he added.

The Hope Lodge is looking for local volunteers to help with cooking, driving and staffing the reception desk. Anyone interested can call the above 800 number.