Darrell Holley used his love of jigsaw puzzles to steady his own mind and heart during his wife’s treatment, and as other Family House guests joined him around the Great Room table, they created a sense of family. At night, guests would gather around the table where he was working to add a piece or two, but more importantly, to share the common bond that brought them to our hospitality house.
Darrell and Beverly Holley spent much of the spring and summer at Family House, away from their home in Edenton, North Carolina. Beverly was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) last fall, a cancer of the white blood cells that inhibits the production of normal cells. Because Beverly needed a stem cell transplant, she was referred to UNC Hospitals. Dr. Tom Shea, a former Family House board member and Director of the Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplantation Programs, is her transplant doctor.
Beverly had her transplant in early May, with stem cells from her sister. Darrell went back and forth to the hospital from Family House, on leave from his job at the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and other guests got to know the soft-spoken man with the big smile who loves jigsaw puzzles. After Beverly joined him at Family House, while she was resting, Darrell would still set himself up to work on puzzles in the Board Room or in the Great Room, completing one large puzzle after another.
We often see guests like Darrell who seek ways to connect with other guests, finding it helpful to be around people going through similar medical situations. Stories are shared. Tears are shed. There is always someone to lend a hand and to listen.
“Everyone is friendly and wanting to help out in any way they can. It’s a nice place to be because not everyone can afford a hotel. The staff works with you here,” Darrell says.
Beverly’s stem cell transplant was a success thanks to the great care she got at UNC Hospitals. Recently, she and Darrell got to go home. As they were leaving, Darrell told us that Family House is a “family away from home.” We agree. They, like so many of our guests who we have gotten to know over the years, have become family to us. We will still see the Holleys, but for shorter visits while Beverly undergoes chemotherapy treatments. And, there will always be jigsaw puzzles here waiting for Darrell to complete.
This story was originally published here by SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals.