From the large deck of the apartment on Hampton Avenue, the view stretches three miles to Barnes-Jewish Hospital. That’s where heart transplant patients stay for three to six months for surgery and follow-up care. The apartment will house patients’ families at low cost during their loved one’s recovery.
Larry Bonds of north St. Louis County received a new heart in 2008 and has worked to build organ donor registries and transplant awareness ever since. Now the Larry D. Bonds Foundation for Life sponsors the Tom Quertermous Memorial Apartment for housing families of organ recipients during their medical treatment. The foundation pays the $800 rent and utilities on the one-bedroom apartment. The official charge to families is $30 a night, but many will stay at no cost depending on their financial situations. Bonds plans to open the apartment to families of patients receiving any type of organ or bone marrow transplant.
The apartment is named for the donor whose heart Bonds received. Quertermous, of Cobden, Ill., died in a farming accident at age 37. Bonds met Quertermous’ parents and daughters last year, and they plan to attend the open house celebration at the apartment next week. The apartment includes wall hangings in tribute to Quertermous’ love of motorcycles and fishing.
“I’m so grateful that I’m literally living off the function of someone else’s heart,” said Bonds, 57. “I wanted to show gratitude to that family and to the community.”
The apartment is one of three in the same complex dedicated to families of transplant patients. Casey’s Place and Casey’s Place Too opened eight years ago and are occupied 95 percent of the time. The apartments are named for Casey Ann Hohman, who died in 2002 at age 22, three months after receiving a heart transplant. Hohman, a St. Louis University student, was active in community service. She loved to decorate, and the apartments include yellow accents to reflect her motto of making lemons into lemonade, her parents said.
Families from as far as Oklahoma and Arkansas have stayed in the apartments, and about half have stayed for free. They are referred by social workers in the transplant program at Barnes-Jewish.
“If you’ve ever sat in a hospital for very long you know it’s taxing,” said Vince Hohman, Casey’s father. “Just to get a few hours and sleep in a bed, they need a break.”