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Stories of Kindness
Clara McLean House
Clara’s House provides kindness and respite to guests from our state, our country and around the world. Here are some of their stories:
“So nice, so clean, so modern, just perfect.”
-Nathaniel and Blanchie Carter
Blanchie Carter was scheduled for knee replacement surgery in the morning. Outside, the snow was coming down fast. Blanchie and her husband, Nathaniel, were not sure they could be here for her 6 a.m. appointment. The storm was forcing other patients to reschedule. “See if they have room at Clara’s House,” a nurse suggested on the phone. They called. A room was available. Blanchie would receive her new knee on time.
“Clara’s House was so nice, so clean, so modern, just perfect,” she says. That night, the snow would keep her and Nathaniel inside, so they brought food from home. “I made dinner, and we ate right there in the kitchen, just like we were home.” Blanchie has thought about Clara’s House a lot since her surgery and approached her college sorority about raising funds. “I was so impressed. We are so very fortunate to have the Clara McLean House in our area.”
"It's like a family here."
Amy Agrali was expecting twins in February. She lives in Fayetteville with her husband Jon, who is stationed at Fort Bragg. In December, Amy’s blood pressure jumped off the charts. Severe preeclampsia was putting her at risk for a life-threatening stroke or seizure. Her doctor said the babies had to be delivered immediately. But it was almost Christmas, and there was no room at the neonatal intensive care unit at Womack Army Medical Center. An ambulance rushed Amy to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, where she delivered a healthy baby boy and girl.
Amy would be discharged a couple days later, but the “preemies” needed a three-week stay in the NICU. She was heartbroken. “I couldn’t imagine leaving my babies, and I knew I couldn’t physically make hour-long trips several times a day between Fayetteville and the hospital.” That’s when she heard about Clara’s House. “It was perfect. I could literally look out the window and see the NICU where the babies were.”
Amy stayed at Clara’s House for about two weeks. When Jon could not be there, her mother stayed. “The staff and volunteers were all so caring and accommodating, especially when I was on bed rest for a time. It’s like a family here.” Her mother credits Amy’s good recovery to the staff at Clara’s House. “There’s physical healing but there’s also emotional healing. There’s a very healing atmosphere here. That’s what makes it so special.” Amy puts it this way. “The Clara McLean House was here when we needed it most – like having a dream come true.”
“You gave us the time to focus on my Dad.”
Stan Kellam wasn’t sure what to do. He wanted to be here for his Dad, who was in the critical care unit at FirstHealth Reid Heart Center. But that meant traveling from California with his son, Austin, who is in a wheelchair. “Clara’s House was perfect for our needs.” They spent a week here, and Austin had full access to his room, the kitchen and all of the common areas. The design and comfort of the house and the hospitality of the staff made all the difference. “They relieved so much of the pressure on us,” says Stan. “Clara’s House gave us the time to focus on my Dad and our family. Thank you.”
“This house is a blessing."
-Tim and Deanna Crowder
That’s how Tim and Deanna Crowder describe the first time they came to Clara’s House. Since Tim was diagnosed with lung cancer, he has received regular outpatient treatments at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. For both him and Deanna, Clara’s House has provided caring support and a homelike place to stay during their time here.
“The people here have become like extended family,” says Tim. They have helped him manage his condition, from how to eat and exercise to how to relax. They both say that Clara’s House has been as a blessing. Someone is always here to listen and to help.
“I think I just met an angel.”
As the former volunteer coordinator at Clara’s House and now the Administrative Director for Oncology and Clinical Trials, Laura Kuzma sees how lives are changed here. But when her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she found a personal blessing. “I went from being a caregiver to someone in need of a caring place and caring people.”
Laura’s father and mother, Larry and Cheryl Schramm, stayed at Clara’s House for about a month while he received care at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. Soon, Larry was too sick to go out. As Laura remembers, Clara’s House gave her parents a place to call home. “I could bring my kids over. We could all sit and play games.” At first, Larry and Cheryl had kept to themselves, but Clara’s House worked its magic. “Everyone was so kind and caring,” says Laura. “They helped all of us. One day Dad mentioned one of the staff at Clara’s House, Mattie McRae. ‘I think I just met an angel,’ he told us.”
As the month passed by, when Larry knew he wasn’t going to make it, he told his daughter that he wanted to help Clara’s House. “If there’s anything I can do, I want to help make this place available for others.” Laura understands how he felt as few others ever can – and how much the kindness shared at Clara House means to every guest.
Gin rummy and brownies at 3 a.m.
The couple arrived from Minnesota in time to say good-bye. Mom had passed away earlier in the day. Now they were alone, feeling lost in a town where they didn’t know anyone. The volunteers were very kind, but the couple kept to themselves. About 11:00 p.m., they made a batch of brownies.
A little later, the brownies were shared with a young couple who found their own quiet corner in Clara's House. They were frightened. Their new baby was in the NICU. “Do you play cards?” They played gin rummy into the night, chatting, smiling, and getting to know each other. The two couples had found new friends and something more – kindred spirits with which they could share their fears and sadness, and know they weren’t alone. These are the moments that make Clara’s House so special.
“When I walked in the door, I felt loved.”
Jean Weaver was shocked when the diagnosis came – early-stage malignant breast cancer. “I kept saying it can’t be,” she recalls. “I’ve always been healthy.” Jean would have a lumpectomy at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital a month later and then begin a six-week course of radiation. The treatments made her very tired. She knew she wouldn’t be able to drive the 120-mile round-trip from her home in Erwin every day. One of her nurses told her about Clara’s House.
“When I walked in that front door, I felt loved. I sure did. It’s like a big loving family.” For the next six weeks, Jean stayed at Clara’s House during the week and traveled home on weekends. Her favorite place at Clara’s House was sitting at the baby grand piano in the living room. Other guests would gather to listen as she played her favorite hymns.
“I know it was in God’s plan that these things happened to me,” says Jean. “But sometimes I wonder, did God put me here to meet all these nice people?”
“Wow!” This was John Johnson’s first impression of Clara’s House.
“My goodness, the atmosphere, the comfortable room, the staff, it’s all so wonderful.”
Mr. Johnson is a retired Air Force pilot and land developer from Siler City, NC, about an hour’s drive from Pinehurst. When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he learned he would need radiation treatments four times a week at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. John knew the constant driving would become an ordeal. Then he heard about Clara’s House.
“I couldn’t resist,” he says. Staying at Clara’s House reduced his drive time and helped keep his spirits high during the treatments. John also gives high marks to the staff. “This is a five-star place with a six-star staff. I love everyone here. One 91-year-old volunteer even cooked me breakfast one morning. Most days you make your own. She asked me, ‘would you like a quiche?’ I said, ‘I sure would.’ Who could turn that down?” Wow indeed.
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