Richard & Jeanette Lucas - Hospitality Center
Richard & Jeanette Lucas

It was the diagnosis they dreaded. For months, Richard Lucas was struggling to breathe. Treatments prescribed by his local doctor in Sandpoint simply weren’t working. He wasn’t anxious to travel to Coeur d’Alene to see a specialist, explained his wife Jeanette. A brain scan, a PET scan and then a biopsy confirmed their fears. Richard had lung cancer. 

The treatment would be tiring and painful. Richard would need five radiation treatments a week and chemo for months. Richard and Jeanette would worry about side effects and the risks associated with this treatment. They’d worry about co-pays and mounting medical bills. But they would not have to worry about driving at least two hours each way for radiation or finding someplace to stay for several months in Coeur d’Alene. “Doctor Mulvey outlined the treatment plan for us, and of course, we worried right away,” Jeanette recalls. The couple lives north of Sandpoint. The drive to Kootenai Health can be treacherous in the winter, with snow and ice. “But then Doctor Mulvey explained that there is a place to stay called the Hospitality Center. It’s just been a wonderful help.” 

Jeanette and Richard moved into The Hospitality Center at Kootenai Health on December 13th. It’s a 20-unit facility right on Kootenai Health’s campus that provides temporary housing for both kids and adults seeking medical treatment. The Ronald McDonald House side of the Hospitality Center serves pediatric patients and their families, while the Walden House portion provides comfort and care for adults like Richard and Jeanette Lucas. The entire Hospitality Center is operated and managed by Ronald McDonald House Charities.  

“I was immediately impressed with the appearance of the foyer and also the helpfulness of the staff,” Jeanette recalls from the day they moved into the Hospitality Center. “It was just comforting to know that you have a place to stay. We were able to put our own food in the refrigerator and it was nice to know that there were linens and things available for us.” The Hospitality Center has all the comforts of home – a kitchen to cook in, a community pantry stocked with snacks, washers and dryers, along with private bedroom suites. The added bonus – volunteers and staff that try to anticipate and meet families’ needs, from cleaning and snow shoveling to finding phone numbers for the right pharmacy. “Two nights ago, someone brought in a wonderful dinner for us and all the guests, and that’s really a treat.” Jeneatte remembers one day when her car was “frozen up.” A Hospitality Center staffer came to the rescue. “And Tiegan took some warm water and helped me get the door open and get the car started. These are just things that go beyond the call of duty.” 

Richard’s treatment has been painful. The former heavy equipment operator is weak. The radiation causes damage to his esophagus, so eating or swallowing pills is painful. But the treatment has been effective. Richard’s radiation and chemo will come to an end in late January, and the couple will move back to their Sandpoint-area home where they’ve lived for the past 40+ years. Jeanette is optimistic about their future together. And she’s grateful to the donors, staff and volunteers who made their stay at the Hospitality Center possible. “I really don’t know what we would have done without the Hospitality Center. We might have searched for an Airbnb or something, but the cost would have been really prohibitive. I don’t know what we would have done.” 

by Tamara McGregor