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Patients find safe haven to recover close to hospital

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Patients find safe haven to recover close to hospital

First she was a patient and after undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Amanda Milner came up with a plan. She created a living space for patients to recover. Now that space has expanded.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

It’s been 14 years since Amanda Milner launched an idea – a safe place for patients to recover. Fair Haven provides free lodging for out-of-town patients and their families.

A former employee and a patient of IU Health, Milner’s idea was born of experience. In 2001 she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was in the care of IU Health Dr. Larry Cripe. When she was five, Milner experienced the death of her mother’s only sister, diagnosed with cancer.

She learned firsthand about the disease. As a former employee working with bone marrow transplant patients she learned even more about the challenges of seeking treatment – often miles from home.

Patients come from all over the country, and from around the world, for the care of IU Health’s leading oncologists. Even after they are discharged, patients remain in Indiana close to their attending physicians.

So Milner launched a plan that would provide patients with free housing during their stay. Since 2008, thousands of patients have stayed at Fair Haven – fully furnished apartments close to IU Health Simon Cancer Center, Methodist, and University Hospitals. Each apartment includes all appliances including a washer and dryer, along with bath linens, cable television and Internet. In addition to housing, several churches and volunteers also assist in providing families with meals, transportation and other support services.

The demand has been so great that Milner and Fair Haven’s board of directors embarked on an expansion. “Ada’s Place” will open to patients next month, with 12 guest suites for overnight lodging.

It will also provide shower and laundry facilities for caregivers of hospitalized patients, who are staying at the bedside of, loved ones. With a social worker referral they can come to Ada’s Place to be refreshed.

Patients have come to know Milner’s mission as “Light in the Window,” “A Refuge in the Storm” and “A Home Away from Home.”

One of those patients is Gary resident and Purdue University graduate Derek Brown. On Feb 19, 2020, Brown was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the bone marrow.

Brown and his parents, Homer and Rosie Brown, remember those months after diagnosis filled with anxiety and uncertainty.

At 47, Brown had been healthy most of his life. His symptoms started with a headache, and advanced to mouth sores and bleeding. When he received his diagnosis he was transported by ambulance to Indianapolis, arriving at midnight.

Brown was in the care of a team of IU Health doctors that included, Attaya Suvannasankha, Larry D. Cripe, Sherif S. Farag, Mohammad I. Abu Zaid. Weeks of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant from his older brother kept Brown and his parents in Indianapolis for weeks on end.

“When he was released from the hospital, we just kept thinking about next steps. He was already suffering from pain and then we needed to figure out where he could rest,” said Rosie Brown. That’s when the family moved into Fair Haven. “I asked how many pots and pans we needed to bring. We needed nothing. It was all there and took a big load off our minds,” she said.

Their unit was one of eight units in downtown’s Stadium Lofts, overlooking the former Bush Stadium.

“It gave me a peace of mind knowing my parents had some place to stay and when I left the hospital we could all be together,” said Derek. “There’s something empowering about seeing people walk their dogs and go on with their lives, that helped with my healing in a home away from home.”