Patients find temporary home at Maynard House
HANOVER, N.H. (AP) — While traveling with his family in Vermont in July, Toronto resident Prateek Mohanty had to stop driving because he wasn’t feeling well. What began as fatigue soon progressed to fever and vomiting — and eventually to delirium.
First Mohanty’s family brought him to the nearest emergency department, which was Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend, Vermont. Providers at the small hospital quickly determined the 36-year-old needed more specialized care than they could offer. From there, he was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.
Mohanty’s wife, Swati Mohanty, their then-16-month-old daughter, Arya, and members of their extended family, who had been traveling together at the time, drove to DHMC.
Eventually, the family learned that Prateek had contracted ventriculitis, an inflammation of the ventricles that circulate cerebrospinal fluid throughout the brain, as well as meningitis, an inflammation of brain and spinal cord membranes, which in his case was caused by the common and usually benign bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae.
In the midst of their worry over his condition, which required weeks of intensive care and sedation, the family found sanctuary at Maynard House, formerly the Upper Valley Hostel. Located on South Street next to the Howe Library in downtown Hanover, the now 40-year-old organization provides patients and their families with a place to stay while undergoing medical treatment.
Funded by donations and guest fees, the house operates on an annual budget of about $160,000 and serves approximately 3,000 guests each year, Maynard House Executive Director Elizabeth Clarke said. Guests pay a nightly fee of $30, although those who cannot pay are not turned away, she said.
Soon Prateek’s uncle Satya Das and Prateek’s parents, Pranati and Pradeep Mohanty, joined Swati and Arya and Swati’s mother, Raja Laxmi, in Hanover. As Dartmouth-Hitchcock doctors worked to treat Prateek, the family had Maynard House as an “anchor to come home to,” Das said in a phone interview last week before his return home to Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.
Volunteers have brought toys for Arya and food for all, from meatloaf to casseroles to quiche, Das said.
The rooms, as well as a shared kitchen, dining room, sitting room and bathrooms, have become a “home away from home,” Swati said in an interview last Tuesday at Maynard House.
“If he had to fall sick, this was the best place,” she said.
The common spaces allowed the family to sit, cook and talk together, and to meet others also experiencing the ups and downs that medical treatment can entail.
Das said the family has met people they never would have otherwise and developed close relationships with them over their shared concern for sick loved ones.
Forty years ago, the founders of what became Maynard House sought to create a home for cancer patients to stay while they received treatment, said one of the founders, Ann James, 92, a longtime Hanover resident who volunteers at the house once a month.
At the time, 1978, there were fewer clinics offering cancer care in remote parts of northern New England, so patients had to commute to Hanover for radiation treatments, which often were necessary five days a week for several weeks. The house, which began in rented space on Sargent Street before moving to the current location in 1980, was created by a group of people concerned about these patients’ welfare, including nurses and the then-priest of St. Denis Catholic Church, James said in an interview at the house last Tuesday, after she dropped off cookies for the guests in a weekly ritual.
“From there it grew,” she said.
As cancer treatment became more readily available throughout the region, Maynard House expanded to offer accommodations to other outpatients and to patients’ families.
Though James is modest about her role in the house’s existence — “We all did volunteer work. ... We all had to help” — she said she likes the idea that the house might inspire guests who return home to establish similar places for people to stay while they or loved ones undergo medical treatment.
“It’s been one of the most low-visibility, constructive things that’s ever been done in the town of Hanover,” said Dr. O. Ross McIntyre, a Lyme resident who directed the Norris Cotton Cancer Center from 1974 to 1992, and who participated in early discussions about the house.
McIntyre recalled that at the time there were patients driving themselves three or four hours to get to appointments each day and they were tiring themselves out. Hotels were too expensive, and they didn’t have anyone else to drive them, he said.
Maynard House is “one of these success stories that is not earthshaking, but it is solid comfort,” McIntyre said. “And it’s absolutely necessary.”
Clorinda Duarte, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, arrived in June at DHMC after her husband, Javier Vasquez, who works for a company that sells frozen fruit to Walmart, had been brought there for treatment following a car crash that broke his legs and caused other injuries. As Vasquez began to show signs of improvement, Duarte and her daughter, who had been sleeping at the hospital, began looking for a place to stay.
One of the intensive care nurses directed Duarte to Maynard House, where she found a home. As Vasquez’s condition improved, he was transferred to Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center for rehabilitation. There, providers helped him learn to move in and out of a wheelchair with ease. He will walk again, Duarte said, but not for some time.
As he was recovering, Clarke, Maynard’s executive director, helped Duarte find a Pilates class she could take for herself. She has a bad hip.
Duarte also found solace in Sunday Mass at nearby St. Denis, she said.
In all, Duarte stayed at Maynard House for about two months, she said.
“If it hadn’t been for the Maynard House, I wouldn’t have been able to stay there that long,” she said in a Friday phone interview from Puerto Rico. ” ... Hotels are so expensive.”
She and Vasquez returned home last week. He will continue his recovery there, but one day, Duarte said, she hopes to return to Hanover to show him her temporary home.
One repeat visitor to Maynard House, who became a friend to the Mohanty family this summer, is Amy Hoyt, of Guilford, Vermont, which sits south of Brattleboro and is a 2½-hour roundtrip to DHMC. Hoyt stays at Maynard House every three months while she receives outpatient treatment for an autoimmune disease.
The first time she had to undergo the treatment three years ago in May, her boyfriend drove her back and forth to the hospital. By the end of the four days, she was exhausted, she said in a phone interview on Friday.
When they got home, she told her boyfriend, “I can never do this again.”
So they searched for places to stay. Hotels in the region, many of which offer discounts for patients, still would have cost something like $125 per night.
“That’s not even an option for me,” she said.
At the bottom of a list provided by the hospital, Hoyt found a listing for Upper Valley Hostel. She didn’t know what to expect, but her first phone call with Clarke immediately set her at ease.
“I felt like she was somebody I had known my entire life,” Hoyt said.
And when she arrived for her first stay after a day of treatment and her first trip on Advance Transit, housekeeper Diane Howland answered the door. Howland took one look at Hoyt and said, “You look like you need a hug.”
“She hugged me and I felt like I was home,” Hoyt said.
Hoyt also said she meets new friends each time she stays at Maynard House. During her last stay in July, she met the Mohantys. She and Prateek’s mother, Pranati, found each other at the breakfast table and again one afternoon. This was early in Prateek’s treatment, and it was unclear whether he would pull through.
Pranati told Hoyt she was struggling with her faith.
“I said ‘you can never lose your faith,’ ” Hoyt said. “Don’t ever give up.”
The next day, Hoyt stopped in the hospital gift shop. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for, but she knew she wanted to give something to Pranati as a “token of faith.”
A glass dragonfly with a tag saying “May your faith lift you high,” caught her eye and she brought it back to Maynard House for Pranati, who told Hoyt she would carry the charm with her whenever she went to the hospital to visit her son.
“Even if it’s just a token, she had something to hold on to,” Hoyt said.
By Monday of last week, Prateek had recovered sufficiently, so his doctors signed off to have him transferred out of intensive care and to a Canadian hospital to complete his recovery. He is regaining motor skills and recently started walking, trying to talk and brush his teeth, said Swati, his wife.
At Maynard House the next morning, family members prepared to return home to Canada and India, making arrangements by phone, drinking coffee and reading the morning paper in the house’s common rooms.
Arya, now a spunky 18-month-old, moved about the dining room and kitchen with ease and without fuss, smiling and waving at visitors. Clarke said Arya has grown since her arrival two months ago.
“She’s made so many friends,” Swati said.
Information from: Lebanon Valley News, http://www.vnews.com