Wednesday, November 5, 2014 12:00 AM

Healing happens within a community

When Visalia resident Arthur Villareal was hit on his motorcycle, his wife Karen knew he needed to go to where she once worked as a nurse – Community Regional Medical Center’s Level 1 trauma center to receive top care. What she didn’t know, being so far from home, was the care she would also find for herself at Terry’s House.

Visalia resident Arthur Villareal was hit on his motorcycle. He poses smiling with his wife, KarenTerry’s House is not only a home away from home for people like Karen who have critically injured or ill love ones at Community Regional, but also a place where families find themselves part of a community – a community that offers first-hand understanding and support so they can stay strong for their loved ones across the street at the hospital

“Even though there is often pain and grief with those staying here, there is also an impromptu community of people to lean on and help process the tough feelings and emotional roller coaster,” wrote one couple who stayed at Terry’s House while their twins were in the NICU.

It is common that those “impromptu” meetings happen around dinner at Terry’s House, much like lunch time at school – a time to socialize with friends, relay experiences, and help someone with a problem.

Christa Short, executive director of Terry’s House, says it’s a “busy and boisterous” time that really allows the families to enjoy each other and have a distraction from the hospital setting.

“It provides an outlet for them to share a meal and talk to others who understand what they are going through,” said Short.

Villareal found this helpful when she met a couple in a similar situation with a son in the hospital after a motorcycle accident. She was able to relate to them and heal in the process, this helped keep her spirits high for her husband.

Arthur Villareal saw the benefits of Terry’s House too and was grateful to have his wife’s companionship nearby while he was in the hospital. “She is such an important part of my life … having my family here helped me heal more,” he said.

Karen was responsible for one patient, but her instinct to help others often led her to check on other families’ patients. When a family would have to attend the needs at their own home, she would visit their patient in the hospital and keep them up-to-date on the patient’s progress with calls to give them comfort while they were away.

Families staying at Terry's House helping themselves to a fresh cooked meal“It’s so cute, you know how [Terry’s House] interconnects everybody. I just think that’s beautiful,” said Karen Villareal “If we didn’t have Terry’s House, I don’t know what I would have done. Honestly, that would have been really, really tough. I just can’t even believe how blessed I’ve been.” And the “Terry’s House family” continues to grow, serving more than 2,800 families since opening in 2011.

Often after leaving the house, families come back to provide a meal, volunteer their time and continue life-long friendships that might not have been established before, said Short, who chronicles the visits on the Terry’s House Facebook page. Connections that began in person at the hospitality home continue on social media long after the hospital discharge.

Story reported by Ginny Joslin of Community Medical Foundation.