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Terry's House provides shelter, respite to burn, trauma patients

For the past several years, Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno has been the only burn and Level 1 trauma service between Sacramento and Los Angeles. Locally it serves critically injured children and adults in Fresno, Kings County, Madera and Tulare Counties.

Each year, they see many patients who are not from the Valley, especially children. Sometimes the children need to stay for weeks in order to recover completely from their illness. This presents a problem for the family members.

The solution, where families can afford to stay for an extended period of time, is the newly planned Terry’s House. This house of respite will be built on land adjacent to the hospital in downtown Fresno.

The project will be breaking ground this fall. Families will be able to stay short term and eat meals while their family member is hospitalized. There is a similar project at Children’s Hospital Central California called the Ronald McDonald House.

Now the much needed home will be accomplished in downtown Fresno.

Junior Emily Schoettler was once a patient in the burn unit at Community Regional Medical Center. At just three years old, Schoettler spent a total of three weeks living in the hospital for third degree burns that could have been fatal without the help of the qualified staff of University Medical Center.

“As a parent of a child in the hospital, I was not focused on menial tasks such as eating or doing laundry. I slept in the chair in Emily’s room for three weeks. I was just lucky enough to have a husband who brought me clothes each day and things Emily needed,” Lori Mascarenas, Schoettler’s mother, said. “Commuting from Madera was a hassle for us at times but our only focus was on getting Emily well. I know the house will be a huge help to parents and families who live out of town.”

However, sleeping in the critical care rooms, at the patient’s bedside, is no longer an option.

It is often difficult for the nurses at Community Regional Medical Center to watch parents worry not only about the health of the patient but how they will pay for lodging and meals for an extended period of time. The stresses mount and can become unbearable.

Sandra J. Yovino, registered nurse and director of the burn center at the hospital, explains from a nurse’s standpoint what it is like to see these families suffer.

“This house has been a dream of mine for years. For over 20 years I have witnessed how families suffer through their loved ones’ injuries. It is just so difficult for families to deal with the emotional impact of a burn injury and most of the patients are from out of town,” Yovino said. “The families want to stay close by, and have a place to rest that is comfortable and surrounded with love. Terry’s House will be the answer.”

Schoettler says the house will be a blessing to the community.

“I think it’s so amazing that people have such a big heart to give to a project like this. I know it will be a huge blessing to families, especially of burn victims,” Schoettler said. “There are many children that are patients in the burn unit every year and it takes a long time to recover. With this new home parents lives will be so much easier and they can focus on being with their kids while they’re recovering.”

The Terry’s House construction is funded completely by gifts and contributions from community members; donations are still needed. With this shelter people will be able to stay strong for their loved ones in the hospital. They can shower, eat, and sleep just like a hotel but without paying a large sum of money.

“Since I live in Madera my parents had a long commute everyday from home to the hospital, either my mom or dad stayed with me every night and slept in the chair next to my bed,” said Schoettler. “They even bought me a TV so I would have something to do. They had to go back and forth to bring clothes for me as well.”

The project is still in the planning stages. It will stand at 17,000 square feet and will have 20 guest rooms that potentially hold six to eight people. The house will also contain a family resource center, children’s activity room, gym and a “healing garden.” The property is within walking distance from the front doors of Community Regional Medical Center at Fresno and R Street.

For more information or donation opportunities, visit the Terry’s House Web site, search the MedWatchToday Web site or contact Community Medical Center’s Eddie Hughes. Hughes is the communications specialist and MedWatch Today editor.

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