The Thornton House is a refuge for patients being treated for mesothelioma or other severe lung and throat conditions.

Let’s face it. Going to the hospital, especially for lengthy stays, isn’t pleasant for patients or their families.

Not only are they often dealing with serious injury or illness, but they also are feeling the stress and sadness that comes with being away from home. The Thornton House (Mesothelioma House), however, helps resolve some of that unpleasantness by providing a temporary home away from home.

Since 2008, nearly one thousand patients and family members from more than 35 states and eight countries have stayed at the Thornton House. Nestled among a row of quaint houses located just steps away from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), the home is a convenient, comfortable, and affordable refuge for patients being treated for mesothelioma or other severe lung and throat conditions.

An average visit is approximately 19 days, but one family stayed for more than 10 months. Fortunately, thanks to subsidies from generous donors, the fees for these long-term stays are very affordable.

I once visited the house at 48 Francis Street in 2011 to meet a brave teenager from New Jersey, Brianna Ranzino, and her mother, Lisa Ranzino. Brianna had been through a lot. After undergoing a series of surgeries at hospitals throughout the eastern US, Brianna came to BWH in 2010 for an innovative procedure to remove a large tumor from within her chest wall and repair her trachea and esophagus.

Brianna was in good spirits at the time, nearly one year after her surgery, but still recovering. We chatted and relaxed on cushy chairs in a spacious living room featuring shiny hardwood floors, lots of big windows, and walls painted with warm colors. She wasn’t at home, but it certainly looked and felt like one – a very nice one.

Each floor of the house has the amenities of home, including: private bedrooms, each furnished with beds, linens, pillows, closets, a television, and a phone; a full bathroom and a half bathroom; a full kitchen; one or two living rooms with a television; and a washer, dryer, iron, and ironing board.

Although the spacious bedrooms are outfitted so that patients and their families can maintain their privacy, the living rooms and kitchens also offer a space for different families to interact.

Such interactions among guests at the house often lead to long-lasting bonds. One couple from Maine recently asked a family from Mississippi whether they could come down for a visit and park their camper in their yard. Other families reunite when they’re back in town for doctor’s appointments.

But regardless of whether they choose to share their story or deal with their condition privately, all the patients have a common goal – to heal and become a former guest. And now that Brianna is much healthier and her trips back to BWH are infrequent and brief, she no longer stays at the Thornton House – giving another patient and their family an opportunity to benefit from the comforts of home.

The home at 48 Francis Street was originally named the Patrick V. Thompson House, in honor of a 14-year-old boy who died from Hodgkin disease (a lymphatic cancer) in 1986. Recognizing the importance of providing affordable housing for cancer patients and their loved ones, Patrick’s family and friends helped raise the funds to buy the home in 1987. Patrick’s name lives on with the Patrick V. Thompson Suites, located within the same house on Francis Street. Learn more about Patrick and the Patrick V. Thompson Suites.

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– Chris P.

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