Finding the Perfect Rental Home for Our Transplant Patient
Care-cation: an extended stay in a place away from home to care for a loved one in need.
In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, we had a week or so to find a six-week-long rental in San Francisco that could house my mom, Diana, who was in the hospital recovering from a single-lung transplant, my dad, and me.
My parents live only 30 minutes away from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) hospital, where my mom’s team of doctors is located. It’s just across from the iconic, vermilion Golden Gate Bridge. However, the lung transplant team said “No bridges!” because in the Bay Area, having to cross a bridge means you’re too far out of reach.
With COVID-19 precautions in mind (and the fact that I wasn’t going to be fully quarantined by the time my mom was discharged), I took on the task of finding 1) a private home or unit with 2) at least two bedrooms and bathrooms that was 3) in a nice, walkable neighborhood close to UCSF and was 4) available ASAP for at least a month, plus 5) relatively affordable. Under those parameters, the search results shrank, but ultimately I found what my dad called a “very regular-looking house” a few miles from the hospital. Leave it to me, Dad.
I never knew how beloved someone could be by so many people who aren’t family until my mom got her lung transplant. This experience, no matter how tragic and scary, continues to replenish my faith in humanity.
The house I found was an unassuming yet classic two-story San Francisco flat with an old, moody Monterey pine in the tiny, brick-lined backyard. The owners were a couple with two young children who enjoyed the adventure of renting out their primary home to strangers for long periods of time.
However, due to the pandemic, the owners hadn’t planned on leaving anytime soon. But then they received a message from me, and I told them the whole story. They called their in-laws for a place to stay, stashed their LaCroix and kids’ toys in the garage, and made their home available to us for the next six weeks.
I’ll never forget this house in San Francisco’s Miraloma neighborhood, on a busy corner with no stop sign, behind a strip mall’s dumpster alley, adjacent to a bus stop, with a living room view of the tallest hill in the city, Mount Davidson, at 928 feet above sea level. We could see the humble, damp-white house from the top of Mount Davidson, which, my mom would be able to walk to within a handful of weeks.
My sister-in-law and a supportive neighbor scrubbed the house clean for my mom’s entrance, while my dad and I packed things from their house: personal towels that were free of mold spores, their own plastic cutting boards that didn’t harvest microbes, a special spatula for the special pan, the good olive oil, a gallon of hand sanitizer, and a gazillion disinfectant wipes.
When my mom showed up, she seemed politely impressed with the home I had found. “It’s perfect for what we need,” she assured me in her see-I’m-not-lying-I’m-being-honest voice. She was tired, anyway. We threw a beach towel over the lounge section of the couch and set her up there, where she slept for the first few days.
I was prepared for that first week. The masking up whenever I was in the same room as my mom, staying away from her otherwise, making most of the meals, running to the grocery store, constantly figuring out which pills and how many and when, how to operate the breathing treatment contraption.
That first week, my dad and I worked side by side like long-time co-workers figuring out a brand new shift together while our patient, my mom, dozed in and out of sleep as her body figured out this brand new organ.
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