By Sandra Wurdemann St. Luke's News
BOISE, Idaho - Frank and Georgia Rencher of Kooskia have traveled to Boise for the past eight years for treatment of Frank’s Parkinson’s disease and other issues at the VA Medical Center.
During that time, St. Luke’s Bishop Foote Guest House, 121 W. Jefferson St., has been a home away from home where they can relax, cook dinner and enjoy the company of other guests.
“This place is the best place there ever was,” Georgia said.
The Guest House opened in April 1973 to provide convenient, economical lodging for patients of the Mountain States Tumor Institute and their adult family members. Today, it welcomes guests who are under direct medical care at St. Luke's MSTI, St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center, Boise Veterans Administration Medical Center, Elks Rehab Hospital, and other area medical facilities, and their caretakers or companions.
The house is intended to help patients and their families or caregivers maintain a near-normal lifestyle while away from home, and to give them opportunities for camaraderie with others in situations similar to their own.
“Everyone is scared and not from here – they’re out of their normal support network,” said Gabrielle Moore, manager of the Guest House. “They come here and find support in sharing information, resources, coffee and dinner.”
Guest Cindy Jesinger of Ketchum says it’s a community, where guests look out for each other – something that wouldn’t likely happen in a hotel. Jesinger and her husband, Rick, have stayed at Bishop Foote during surgeries and other medical-related visits.
When one guest looked ill and seemed out of it, Jesinger immediately drove him to the hospital where he spent days with an extremely high fever from an infection. Her quick action possibly saved his life.
When another guest’s husband passed away in the hospital, Jesinger and other guests were there to support her.
“It’s just the most remarkable, loving resource that any community can have,” Jesinger said. “It is absolutely the most amazing place. You can be alone and with others. It’s important in the healing process. It’s stability in chaos. I have stability in that place.”
More than 100,000 people have lodged at the Guest House in the past 40 years, Moore says.
The 4,000-square-foot home with 11 private rooms is on the St. Luke’s Boise campus, just a block from the hospital. Room rates at this time are $16.95 for a single and $22.60 for a double. The house has Intranet access, a fully equipped kitchen and laundry facilities.
Barry Alexander of Connecticut stayed at the Guest House for more than a half-dozen weeks recovering from reconstructive ear surgery. Alexander is a three-time survivor of melanoma who sought the help of Dr. Russell Griffiths, a Boise specialist who often uses a one-stage process to reconstruct ears instead of doing three to four surgeries months apart. Alexander said the Guest House made the surgery affordable.
“I don’t think I would be doing it if it wasn't for something like this,” he said.
Baker City resident Rochelle Jampolsky came to MSTI in Boise for three months of radiation therapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She said the Guest House was warm, comfortable, secure and close to medical staff when issues cropped up.
“It was just really convenient ‘cause I was just really sick with the cancer,” she said. “It just eased my mind a lot to be right there.”
Retired teachers Erik Larson and Deborah Straiton, a husband and wife from Hailey, stayed at the Guest House for six weeks in 2008 while Deborah, a breast cancer survivor, was treated with radiation. During that time, his mother’s health declined and she passed away three days after Deborah completed her treatment.
“I can't tell you how grateful we were to have the Bishop Foote Guest House as our home away from home during such a difficult time,” Deborah said. “There's a camaraderie, solace and comfort about Bishop Foote that you don't have staying in an impersonal place like a hotel.”
Deborah said staying at the Guest House was a huge reduction of the stress and just like being at home. She and Erik also said they love the neighborhood and the short walk to Downtown Boise.
“It’s a very safe place to land when you’re going through tough times,” Erik said. “We made a lot of friends.”
Need More Information?
Visit us online or call Gabrielle Moore at 381-3055.
How Did the Guest House Come to be?
1970 A needs assessment was completed by St. Luke’s Hospital and Mountain States Tumor Institute regarding lodging at the hospital.
1972 The house was purchased for $22,000 with donations from the Union Pacific Railroad, the Cancer Fund and Geriatrics Fund. Remodeling began.
1973 A grand opening was held in April.
Who is Bishop Foote?
The Rt. Rev. Norman Foote served as the Episcopal Bishop of Idaho from 1957 to 1972 and was president of the St. Luke’s Hospital Board of Directors during that time. His papers reside at Boise State University Library, http://library.boisestate.edu/special/FindingAids/fa55.shtm. During Bishop Foote’s tenure the Diocese of Idaho gained strength in church membership and became well known as the ‘testing ground’ of innovations for the Episcopal Church in the United States. Some of the programs established during Bishop Foote’s years were: Ecumenicalism, Pastoral Care, Metropolitan Planning and The Idaho Project – an experimental program for self supporting ministries. In 1972, Bishop Foote retired due to ill health and moved to McCall, where he continued to serve the church. He died at 59 in 1974 from complications of emphysema in a hospital at Cascade.