Love Letters From JoeAnna’s House

On March 9, just four months after officially opening its doors, JoeAnna’s House faced the grim reality brought on by COVID-19.  It was early days in the pandemic, but KGH was already deep into adapting operations. In the coming weeks, local hotels and other hospitality properties would close.

JoeAnna’s House provides much-needed accommodation for families of patients from outside the central Okanagan. If the house were to close, these families would have nowhere to go.  And so a commitment was made to stay open and do whatever needed to keep guests safe while being close to their loved ones in hospital.

The stories that follow offer a small snapshot into life at JoeAnna’s House during COVID-19.

Cindy McBurnie, Vernon, BC – Cindy arrived at JoeAnna’s House on January 24, two days after her husband, Kevin, was transferred to KGH from Vernon Jubilee.  He was in a coma suffering acute respiratory distress.  His chances of survival were low.  Cindy stayed a total of 42 days before Kevin’s condition stabilized enough for him to be transferred back to VJH.

“I can’t even put into words the depth of my gratitude for JoeAnna’s House.  I know COVID-19 challenged everyone in health care, but I just wanted to be close to Kevin.  I’m so thankful for the superhuman efforts of the staff to maintain the service JoeAnna’s House offers.  I don’t know what I would have done without it.”

Allie & Clay Rasmussen, Creston, BC – Allie and her mother, Sylvia, arrived at JoeAnna’s House on March 13. Allie’s high risk pregnancy required her to stay close to the neonatal intensive care unit at KGH. They stayed just over a month until little Jeremiah was born on April 19. Allie’s husband Clay says,

“Our stay here provided such relief! Knowing that we could stay here for such a long time without worry directly impacted Jeremiah’s birth in such an amazing way.  The entirety of the BC interior is truly blessed by JoeAnna’s House and its staff.”

Bonnie Oicle-Chale, Cranbrook, BC – As Bonnie made her way to Kelowna, she found herself navigating treacherous weather conditions on HWY33.  It was late at night, raining, with deer all around.  She was overwhelmed with worry for her husband Jim, who had just experienced a massive heart attack.

“Jim was airlifted to KGH. I quickly threw a few things in a bag and started driving. As I got close to Kelowna I realized that the pandemic was impacting my ability to find accommodations.  Thankfully, I was welcomed to a beautiful, warm environment at JoeAnna’s House. The team was caring and friendly. It made a very stressful situation so much easier. Thank you, thank you!”

After having three stints put in his heart, Jim made a speedy recovery and was discharged after only three days in hospital.

Shirley Jones, Montrose, BC – After having a stroke, Shirley’s husband, Wayne was transferred to KGH from Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital.

“I had the privilege of staying at JoeAnna’s House for 33 days while my husband was being treated at KGH Rehab Centre. This beautiful sanctuary full of warm, often scared, guests has been a blessing. The staff and volunteers are very special and the location is such a treasure; steps from the hospital, views of the lake and wonderful walking paths. Being able to stay at JoeAnna’s House meant so much to me and my husband.  With the pandemic causing hospital lockdowns, non-essential closures and physical distancing, JoeAnna’s House was a refuge when I needed one most.”