A heartfelt journey

Home for transplant patients is goal of Evans Foundation

The living room of the first apartment for transplant patients and their caregivers at Post Briarcliff Apartments in Atlanta.
Jeffrey Campbell Evans
Mom, Mary Evans.
Dad, Bob Evans.
Brother, Brad Evans.

Providing transplant patients and their caregivers a private residence steeped in kindness, hope and peace

To trace the path from grief to peace, you’ll need to go back more than a decade to when a warm pair of socks set a plan in action.

As her son, Jeff, lay dying in an Atlanta hospital hooked up to a respirator to help him breathe, Mary Evans fixated on keeping his feet warm.

Her once vibrant 26-year-old son, a successful chef with a spectacularly bright future ahead of him, had contracted a rare virus three years earlier which attacked his heart, causing permanent damage.

Although Jeff had been on the transplant list for months — once getting so close to a new heart that he was prepped for surgery — the options had dimmed by the summer of 2006.

“His feet were always I brought socks from home to make him comfortable,” said Evans, recalling Jeff’s finals days in the hospital. “At that point I decided that in the future I would make sure every [transplant patient] received cashmere socks.”

But after Jeff passed away, grief took hold and the journey through the healing process delayed those plans until early 2015...when a new goal took shape.

Evans, who lives in Ball Ground with her husband, Bob, said she remembers distinctly when the idea for a temporary home for transplant patients and their caregivers came to her family.

“I was sitting at the kitchen table with Bob and [son] Brad and we talked about what we could to do honor Jeff’s memory and help the transplant community,” she said, remembering the moment when she began moving forward on her son’s legacy.

Evans said when Jeff was placed on the transplant list for a new heart the family was initially told they had to move to Alabama to be close to the hospital where the operation would take place. The family was able to work out a plan to have Jeff treated at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta, but Evans knew many families were not so lucky.

“I know what families are going through in that situation, on top of all the emotional issues, you just don’t need the financial burden [of housing] as well,” said Evans, who had heard stories of families living in their cars at times to remain close to the hospital.

Mary, Bob and Brad Evans formed the Jeffrey Campbell Evans Transplant House Foundation in 2015 with the goal of providing fully furnished apartments where the transplant recipient and caregivers could live rent-free while awaiting an organ.

The idea was spurred by the Mason Guest House at Emory Hospital where up to 15 families can live at low cost while awaiting a transplant.

This month, the first tenants will move into the two-bedroom, two-bath apartment at Post Briarcliff provided by the Evans Foundation. Plans are well underway to open three more apartments by the end of this year and at least 15 more by 2020.

Looking ahead, the goal, said Evans, is to eventually build a stand-alone transplant home by 2022, similar to the Mason House, where 20 families can reside.

Those apartments will be a godsend to those on the transplant list and their caregivers, said Evans, but a drop in the bucket compared to the need. There are more than 5,000 people on the transplant list in Georgia alone.

She explained the tenants will be selected by social workers with Emory, Children’s Hospital and Piedmont Hospital –  three transplant hospitals in the Atlanta area – along with the Georgia Transplant Foundation.

The tenants will stay at least a month, perhaps longer, and the Evans Foundation will never know who will be living in the units. But she is grateful for the opportunity to do something positive for others in her son’s memory, and that is all the appreciation necessary.

Looking back on the past two years getting the foundation up and running, Evans is amazed at where she started...and how far her family has come.

“We were completely naive in the beginning...but we were able to knock down every wall and get over every hurdle we faced,” she said. “We were determined that no matter what, that THIS was going to happen. And here we are...opening our first apartment.”

For more information on the Jeffrey Campbell Evans Transplant House Foundation, visit the website at ■


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