One evening in 1988, Michael Aichenbaum returned home from work utterly and totally fatigued. He stared for a long time at his two sons, 2-1/2 year-old David and 8 month old Josh. In resignation and defeat, Michael finally mumbled to his wife Ruth: “The older one is David…I can’t remember the other one’s name”. The next day Michael was diagnosed with an advanced case of leukemia– he was 33 years old.
Doctors told the Aichenbaums that two courses of chemotherapy could be given to Michael–if this treatment did not bring the disease into remission, there would be nothing else which could be done for him. The first course of chemotherapy failed. It was then decided to transfer Michael from a hospital in Michigan to Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital in Manhattan.
Ruth along with Michael’s mother Lil went with Michael to provide support. By necessity the two boys were with them as well. Lodging was found at an apartment across the street from the hospital. The cost: over $3,000 a month.
Michael was a patient at Sloan-Ketttering from New Year’s Day through mid-June. The second course of chemotherapy brought the disease into remission, and thereafter Michael successfully received a bone-marrow transplant, his brother being his donor. Throughout this period his family lived in the apartment across from the hospital, at an eventual cost totaling over $20,000.
After Michael’s recovery the Aichenbaums moved to Philadelphia. Almost a decade later Michael learned about the Boston based Hospitality Program, a nonprofit organization which since 1983 has been providing zero or low-cost lodging for hospital families through a network of volunteer-host homes.
About this same time Michael met Nancy Wimmer, who herself in 1988 had traveled out-of-state so as to undergo a bone-marrow transplant as treatment for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Nancy’s family as well had to bear a numbing expense for lodging. Years later when Michael told Nancy that he was thinking of establishing a volunteer-host home hospitality program to service hospitals in the greater Philadelphia area, she urged him to do so.
Together, in March 2000 they established HOSTS for HOSPITALS.