TEMPLE — A non-profit in Temple is opening the door to help organ transplant recipients afford the life-saving surgeries they need. Amy’s House opened its doors in November 2020, since then they have helped serve almost 50 families.
The nonprofit provides housing for transplant recipients, live donors, and family members. The home was built near Baylor Scott & White - Temple to serve patients traveling to the hospital who might otherwise be unable to afford care.
Amy’s House is named after Amy Henderson Firth. Amy was a speech therapist who served kids with autism in Temple, Belton, and Killeen.
In 2012, Amy unexpectedly passed away from a brain hemorrhage. But her legacy didn’t stop there. Amy was an organ donor. By making that choice, she was able to help save the lives of 70 other people.
“Amy was a very loving and very empathetic person,” said her father, John Henderson. “I think it’s her spirit that inspires us.”
Amy’s parents, Margaret and John Henderson wanted to do something that reflected the kind of person Amy was. They joined the Transplant Recipients International Organization (TRIO) Central Texas Chapter, and that’s when they heard of a big need. Patients at Baylor Scott & White-Temple come from an average of 50 miles away, but many patients struggle to afford the travel costs.
“Many of the people who stay with us are financially struggling,” explained Director and Chaplain of Amy’s House, Jim Fly. “They have the money to cover the procedures medically, but their additional expenses are difficult to cover such as lodging and transportation.”
The hospital says their shorter wait times help attract patients beyond Central Texas. According to Baylor Scott & White-Temple, their average wait time for a pancreas or kidney is eleven months, while the median wait time for transplant centers in Texas and Oklahoma is three and a half years.
“By the time you get to the point where you have a transplant need come up in the family, you’ve probably already spent quite a bit of your available money on medical care. So, it’s one of the big needs,” said Fly.
Hotel rooms and restaurants also bring up another issue: sanitation.
“The patients themselves are usually given medications that will suppress their immune systems, so they don’t reject the new organ. The minute that happens you have to be very careful with what the patient is exposed to.”
The Hendersons decided they wanted to help. For four years they provided a trailer for patients who traveled from out of town. Then they dreamed bigger. They helped raise the funds, and the City of Temple donated the land to build Amy’s House.
Now Amy’s House can house up to eight families at a time. There’s a common area to relax, a kitchen to cook their own food, and high sanitation standards.
“It seems to give a sense of comfort,” said Fly.
Less than two years after its opening, Baylor Scott & White - Temple says Amy’s House is already making a difference. Last year the hospital performed a record number of transplants — almost 200. This is 25 percent more than their previous record set in 2017.
Transplant Director Dr. Tun Jie, listed Amy’s House as one of the out-of-the-box initiatives that helped the hospital serve more patients.
“Temple is in the outskirts of Austin, so for certain patients, it’s difficult to access our medical center," said Dr. Jie. "Typically, when they’re transplanted here, the patients and the family have to stick around for a couple of weeks. When they get better, they can go home. So, Amy’s House provides reasonable housing for the transplant population. So that's something that is innovative.”
For the Hendersons, the mission of Amy’s House reflects their daughter’s generosity. With each act of service, they carry on the legacy of who Amy was.
“She’d be very proud of her mom and dad,” said John Henderson.
At Amy’s House families only pay what they can afford. The Hendersons say their donations only cover about a tenth of the expenses. To continue operation, the home relies on donations from the community.
You can learn more about Amy’s House on their website.