Family House serves West Virginia patients and their kin

A place for families

More than 40 years ago before WVU had a hospital, Hilda Rosenbaum traveled up and down the East Coast with her two children suffering from cystic fibrosis seeking care for them in teaching hospitals. Accommodations for families of patients were few and far between. She slept countless nights in uncomfortable hospital chairs, watching over her children.

Rosenbaum was the driving force for the construction of the first Rosenbaum Family House, next to Ruby Memorial Hospital. It was an instant hit – there’s rarely an empty room and often 15 to 30 families are on the waiting list.

The original building will be torn down this year to make space for construction of a Ruby Memorial Hospital addition. A new, larger, Rosenbaum Family House was built next Milan Puskar Stadium to take its place. As in the original building, the house’s 25 volunteers provide much of the hospitality for patients and their families.

A long time home away from home

Like many of the long-term residents of Rosenbaum Family House, Eddie Bailes had the support of his family and his neighbors to get him through.

The 61-year-old handyman spent four months in Morgantown – a month as a bone marrow transplant patient in Ruby Memorial Hospital and three additional months for outpatient chemotherapy. He lived in the Rosenbaum Family House during his stay – two and a half hours from his home in Nettie, West Virginia.

Bailes’ mother, Mildred Newhouse, came from her home in North Carolina and stayed with her son nearly every day. His brother Jackie donated bone marrow for his treatment, and he stayed at the family house, too.

They often spent time with other families who were going through their own medical crises.

When the families were eating dinner together, they would talk about what they’d rather be doing: hunting, fishing, or just being home. Once in a while, Bailes said, they’d talk about the medical problems that brought them there. “They’d start crying. Then I’d start crying.”

“This place is nice. They charge a little to stay here – but they don’t worry if you can’t afford it,” Bailes said.

Bailes looked out his window every day at the construction workers across the parking lot, building the new family house that opened in March. “By the time they got to the roof, I was hoping I could be out there putting on shingles,” he said. It’s been more than a year since he was able to work. “I do roofing, house additions, any kind of side job to help people out around Nettie. They all know me there; I’ve been at it 25 years.”

“I can’t go until the doctors release me – I’ll just get sick again if I’m out too soon. I love these doctors, and I’m crazy about the nurses. But I want to go home to my dog. When I get home, I’ll never leave again.”

Serving West Virginia

Rosenbaum Family House has hosted visitors from around the world, but most guests are West Virginians. In 2013, 45 guests came from Randolph County, 44 from Raleigh County, 31 from Wood County, and 30 from Kanawha County. Another five counties sent 20 or more, and someone from nearly every county will spend at least one night there this year.

More room to grow

The new Rosenbaum Family House, which is directly across the parking lot from Ruby Memorial Hospital, opened in March. It has space for 39 families, including 11 apartments and 28 guest rooms. There are two group kitchens that any guest can use; Morgantown community volunteers often use the kitchens to prepare evening meals for guests. The house also has a playroom, a library, two laundry rooms, and a day room.