Local foundation helping families find housing near Boston hospitals

BOSTON — Transplant patients and their families go through a tremendous amount of stress figuring out all the logistics associated with such a big surgery.

For example, many patients travel out of town to get to a hospital, which can perform this type of surgery.

Karen Klimczak of Avon, Connecticut came to Tufts Medical Center to receive a heart transplant on New Year’s Eve.

“I used to have what’s called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM.”

Klimczak is the mother of a 4-year-old daughter so there were a lot of moving parts for her and her husband as they juggled family needs and constant post-surgery appointments.

Trying to find a hotel or apartment in Boston at the height of the pandemic didn’t feel safe or affordable.

Fortunately, Klimczak and her family were able to stay in a fully furnished apartment at 221 Mass Ave in Boston. It cost only $30 a day.

“It was a miracle. They have been an absolute miracle for us,” said Klimczak. “It was everything to us. It was lifesaving for us, honestly.”

Klimczak was able to secure the unit through the Heart Brothers Foundation, which is based in Marlborough.

Pat Sullivan founded the foundation with two other men he met while they were all waiting for heart transplants at Tufts Medical Center.

“We decided if we got out of this alive, we would have to do something to give back.”

Now eight years later, the foundation has been supporting patients with a variety of support programs.

Sullivan says the number one request was always around travel and lodging.

“From day one, when we put our business plan together, we always envisioned a Heart Brothers House and what we ended up with and what we envisioned are two different things.”

But the effect is the same.

The organization now leases two apartments close to all the Boston hospitals which perform transplants and makes them available to families at a reduced rate.

“We modeled it after the Cam Neely House and the Ronald McDonald House.”

Doctor David Denofrio, the medical director of the Advanced Heart Failure program at Tufts, says providing a resource like this can reap real dividends for patients and their families.

“Emotional health and mental health are an important part of the recovery process, not just physical health.”

Having easy access to convenient and affordable housing made all the difference to the Klimczak family.

“I can’t even describe how grateful we are to have had that.”

“Helping people get through this journey is the most rewarding thing I can do,” added Sullivan.

Heart Brothers Foundation hopes to lease up to four more apartments this year which will involve some additional fundraising.