patient comes from out of town for treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center, or to one of the other prestigious hospitals at Texas Medical Center, full of renewed hope of finally finding that stubbornly elusive cure.
The promise of renewed hope is usually tempered by an avalanche of unanswered questions. Namely, it comes down to one word: logistics.
Many will need weeks or even months of outpatient care. Where does one stay? How do you take care of food needs? If the patient is a parent with young children at home, one spouse has to remain with the kids, so who will act as caregiver to the patient, tending to their every need?
But it does not take them long to find an answer. A quick check on the internet, or with friends in Houston, reveals Aishel House, a Houstonian treasure of good will and caring, which provides patients and their families with complete support. From basic needs such as transportation and delicious home cooked kosher meals to comfortable accommodations and sensitive counseling.
Out of town patients, and even in town patients, are relieved to learn that they are not alone; indeed, they truly attain the feeling that the Jewish community, the world over, is like one large family.
On their arrival at the airport patients and family members are greeted by an Aishel House volunteer who drives them to their destination. Often the first stop is at the Aishel House where a hot, home cooked meal is waiting for them. They are then shuttled over to the hospital or their comfortable accommodations.
Oftentimes, a patient may be flying in for a one day consultation or post treatment check up. After a long exhausting day of taking blood tests, scans and consultations they are picked up from the hospital, driven back to Aishel House for a warm delicious dinner, following which an Aishel House volunteer escorts them back to the Airport to be back in time to put their children to bed.
Recently, Debbie accompanied her husband Joe, all the way from Atlanta, Georgia, for a one day consultation at MD Anderson to explore a new treatment possibility for his rare lymphoma.
“They were so kind to us, total strangers; they made us realize that we truly have family in Houston.” Says Debbie “After a long day at the hospital, we were emotionally exhausted, and did not know if we would have the strength to forge ahead with the difficult new treatment they were suggesting. Knowing that somebody will be there for us made the decision so much easier. I would never be able to stay back home in Atlanta to look after the kids, if Aishel House would have not have been there for us. I simply do not know what I would have done. Thank G‑d we are now on the long road to recovery”.
“Like angels waiting in the wings, they were there to carry us to our every destination, not forgetting even one detail” said Joey.
Most of the work that Aishel House does would not be possible without their small army of enthusiastic volunteers.
Ms. Kelly Heizer, a busy mother, often shuttles patients or family members to and from the airport and around town.
Kelly explains how she first got started: “I met a friend who had been hospitalized at one of the hospitals in the Medical Center and they told me all about what Aishel House does for patients there. I was really inspired to help out.” But there was something else that finally encouraged her to act on it. “I had seen the video clip of some of the work that Rabbi Lazer Lazaroff and his wife Rochel do at Chabad of Texas’ 30th anniversary dinner, I immediately knew that I wanted to be part of that somehow.”
“Somebody I know once called Rochel, looking for a place to stay.” Kelly relates, “the response she got was immediate and to the point: ‘No problem, we’ll take care of it’. She was so touched.”
Spending time with people suffering from life threatening illness, reminds her, says Kelly, that “no matter what you’re going through, there are people going through worse. They really inspire you to keep looking toward the future, to stay positive, and keep going!”
“I really don’t see myself as a volunteer,” says Mr. Joseph Ellison, a long time Houston businessman. “I simply do what needs to be done. Whether it’s an airport ride or a blood transfusion – if I can be there I’ll be there.”