Two smiling adults stand in a library

Behind every door is a story.

Debra Brooks came to us in a state of exhaustion. The past few days had been a whirlwind – her husband’s routine gallbladder surgery back home in Danville, Virginia went horribly wrong and led to an immediate admission to VCU Health. Debra was relieved she was able to stay in the hospital room with her husband, but after staying in a recliner for two nights, reality hit: “I was down here without a car, three and a half hours away from home. I had no way to get anything or go anywhere.” She knew she would not be able to stay in the recliner if this turned into a lengthy stay, but she was unfamiliar with Richmond and didn’t know of any options.

“I didn’t know what to do.”

Then, a nurse told her about The Doorways. It was exactly what she needed, exactly when she needed it. “It as a lifesaver. This was my home away from home for two months.”

Debra returned months later with her husband so he could truly understand how much The Doorways means to her. Debra’s memories brought back a flood of emotion as the sense of community stayed with her. She recalls her friends – both fellow guests and staff – with ease and joy. But she quickly shifts gears to wonder if those fellow guests have been able to return home with their loved ones. After experiencing the ups and downs of medical challenges together, Debra expresses her emotional hope that they all shared the same positive outcomes her family thankfully did.

Thankful for a warm welcome and for the comforts of home, Debra had told her husband what an impact her stay had upon her ability to support him during his hospitalization. When he had a follow-up appointment back at VCU Health, she seized the opportunity to give him a tour and to give back as a way to say thank you. “I’ve tried to explain this place, but I wanted him to see for himself.” Debra escorted him through all of the common spaces, sharing about meals in the kitchen and evenings spent in the dining room, conversing with fellow caregivers and patients themselves. She reminisced about the bedrooms which she described as “so comfortable” and laughs as she tell us that the housekeeping team especially made an impact.

“They would always ask if I needed anything, and when I said I didn’t, they still made sure. Seeing their friendly faces was such a comfort.”

Walking through the lobby, she shared a sentiment we hear often from guests as they get off the shuttle: “the Front Desk team would welcome all of us, and tell us to go get something to eat” as caregivers often are so focused on their patient’s needs that they neglect their own. “I was worried something would happen to him late night, but the Front Desk and Shuttle Drivers assured me not to worry, they’d make sure I could get to him.” The comfort of knowing she had a way to get back to the hospital quickly allowed Debra the chance to rest and recuperate herself in the evenings. Finishing up her tour, Debra saved her favorite room for last: the library. “This was my place. I love to read, and it was my out on the most difficult days.”

With tears of gratitude in her eyes, Debra shared what The Doorways has meant to her.

“It was a wonderful experience. There’s no way anyone wouldn’t feel at home here. Everyone who comes is distressed in some way, but here, we’re together.”