Deb Wagner
Freelance Writer
November 29, 2016 // Local

A father’s death births place of support for families

Deb Wagner
Freelance Writer

Understandably, when Amy Alfaro’s father, Paul Torrez Jr., died in March 2000 after a nearly 10-year battle with Curkitt’s lymphoma, she grieved. She felt, however, that this was God’s will not only for him, but also for her.

Alfaro and her father had always had a close relationship, and caring for him during his final illness was not a great problem for her. There was some stress though, over, for example, where to stay while she attended to him in the hospital.

In May of 1990 Torrez became the 52nd heart transplant recipient of the former Lutheran Hospital on Fairfield Avenue in Fort Wayne. In 2000 he moved to Texas to be closer to other family members, while Alfaro stayed behind — that is, until she was told he had contracted Curkitt’s from the anti-rejection medication he received following the transplant. She traveled to Texas to care for him and found temporary housing through a local Lutheran church.

Although Torrez and Alfaro were longtime, registered Catholics at Sacred Heart Parish in Fort Wayne, practicing and relying on their faith had not been as important to them in the past as it became during the last six months of Torrez’ life. For Alfaro, that newfound devotion remained after her father’s death. She and her family now attend the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne.

Following his death, she began to dream frequently about him and about how she moved from apartment to apartment while he was in the hospital. In October 2015 Alfaro asked herself what she was going to do to honor the spirit and the fortitude her father possessed. The idea of Paul’s Place, named after her father, began to take shape.

Most of the temporary housing available for the caregivers of hospital patients is designed for families whose children are hospitalized; there was not temporary housing for the caregivers of adult patients. Alfaro saw this as a need for the Fort Wayne area, with its two large hospitals, and because insurance companies rarely pay temporary housing costs in these situations.

“I saw this as a sign of what I could do to honor my father’s memory,” she said. “It’s a fishes and loaves story.” Alfaro wanted to provide “comfort and solace to those in need, because we are to do onto others as we would want done for us.” The Lutheran church in Houston had provided for her, and she wanted to offer the same to others — regardless of religious affiliation.

Alfaro’s idea gained the support of Lisa Pacula, executive director of Ronald McDonald Charity House of Northeast Indiana, and Andrew Gritzmaker, executive director of Mad Anthony Children’s Hope House. They referred her to Healthcare Hospitality Network, an Oregon-based organization that is membership-driven and provides referrals of temporary housing available throughout the nation to families who have a loved one in the hospital. It also helps those interested in establishing temporary hospitality housing connect with the resources they need.

Paul’s Place: Support for Families hopes to begin accepting applications and leasing apartments in early December across from Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne, and to offer the same opportunities for families of adult patients in Lutheran Hospital in 2017. During 2018 and 2019 it is projected that Paul’s Place will be able to build its first communal building, similar to the familiar Ronald McDonald charity houses.

Paul’s Place will have a holistic nutritionist available to teach caregivers how to cook healthy meals, and a certified massage therapist will demonstrate to caregivers how to massage the patient. Counseling will be available through Associated Churches.

For more information call 260-444-8576 or email [email protected].


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