The Guest House at McLeod is a home away from home for many families of patients treated at McLeod Regional Medical Center. This special haven has touched numerous lives for nearly 20 years, thanks to the generosity of donors to the McLeod Health Foundation.
Families who have been uplifted by the warmth and kindness of the Guest House staff include the Hughes of Tabor City, North Carolina.
Harold Hughes was admitted to McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence from McLeod Loris in May of 2013 for treatment by a specialist. Harold is a kidney transplant recipient and any illness can become serious very quickly. Naturally, this situation left Harold’s wife, Sylvia, very apprehensive and worried. Once Harold was transferred, Sylvia did not have time to make arrangements for an overnight stay in Florence.
“Because of Harold’s past kidney transplant, I was very concerned and fearful of what could happen,” said Sylvia. “I learned about the Guest House at McLeod through a McLeod staff member, and arrangements were made for me to stay there while my husband was in the hospital. Knowing that I had a safe place to stay helped ease my nervousness about Harold’s condition.”
Sylvia spent five days in the Guest House while Harold received care at McLeod Regional Medical Center. “I would care for Harold during the day until late at night at the hospital,” said Sylvia. “When it was time for me to travel back to the Guest House, a security guard would drive me there to ensure my safety.
In addition, no matter what hour of the night it was, the resident manager would greet me at the door and offer to assist with anything I needed. I was very impressed by these expressions of kindness.”
Sylvia found the comfortable accommodations and hospitality of the Guest House to be unique. “The Guest House was very quiet and promoted a sense of tranquility and peacefulness. It was very encouraging to know that I had this safe haven as a retreat after a difficult day. It was also comforting to Harold to know that I was safe, and that in return helped him focus on healing.
“The quality of the doctors and the care received at both McLeod hospitals was impeccable,” said Sylvia. “Since our time there, we have recommended McLeod to other family members. We were confident in our team of doctors and caregivers, and we knew that they had Harold’s best interest at heart.
“It is very humbling to know that generous donations by people in the community make the Guest House possible. Staying at the Guest House made it easier for me to cope with Harold’s illness. I was able to rest comfortably knowing Harold was receiving excellent care.”
When Jane McNiel suffered a heart attack in September of 1995 and was admitted to McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, her family was afraid, anxious, and unsure. Her children, Danny and Susan, and her husband, Mac, knew they needed to be by Jane’s side around the clock but they worried about where they would stay.
Danny and Susan lived in Bennettsville and Mac and Jane resided in Dillon. Both communities are at least 45 minutes from the hospital.
Fortunately for the McNiel’s, the Guest House at McLeod had opened four days earlier, thanks to the generosity of donors to the McLeod Health Foundation. A patient representative recommended the Guest House to the family as an option which provided the relief they needed so they could concentrate on Jane’s recovery.
“They enjoyed the ease, comfort, and security of the McLeod Guest House,” explained Elisabeth Kinney McNiel, Danny’s wife. “Repeatedly travelling the long distances between their homes and McLeod would have added to the already considerable amount of stress they were under as would have the busyness of a hotel by the interstate. The McLeod Guest House, on the other hand, provided a tranquil, home-like environment that let them be as close as possible to Jane and still get a good night’s sleep, or at least a few hours of comfortable rest.”
Not long after Jane’s recovery from successful open heart surgery, Mac suffered a heart attack and required treatment at McLeod. The all too familiar fear and uncertainty returned to the McNiel family. The one thing they did not worry about; however, was where they would stay -- knowing the Guest House at McLeod would be right across the street for them.
The only facility of its kind in the region, the Guest House at McLeod has 17 private bedrooms, a living room, den, library, a meditation garden, a gazebo, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a front porch swing. The facility and the services available at the Guest House are made possible entirely through charitable gifts to the McLeod Health Foundation.
To give back to the Guest House at McLeod for all they did for the McNiel’s, Elisabeth turned to her family’s foundation. The Kinney Foundation was established in 1972 by Elisabeth’s great-uncles, the late Drs. P.M. and C.A. Kinney, to benefit their fellow Marlboro County residents.
“Neither of my great-uncles had children. They considered the people of Marlboro County their children,” said Elisabeth who now chairs The Kinney Foundation. “Marlboro County residents are also the second-highest users of the Guest House at McLeod. Our support of it clearly fits the mission of The Kinney Foundation.
“If they were alive today, I think my great-uncles would have eagerly supported the Guest House,” added Elisabeth. “They were country doctors who served everyone whether or not they could afford to pay.”
The Kinney Foundation has been one of the McLeod Foundation’s most generous and consistent supporters of the Guest House. Since 1997, The Kinney Foundation has donated a total of $25,000 to the McLeod Foundation to cover the costs of Marlboro County guests who are unable to pay.
One woman’s vision more than 20 years ago to provide a home away from home for families at McLeod Regional Medical Center continues to live on today. This level of care is made possible by the generosity of donors and other families who want to give back to this special haven.
Dot Johnson can be described as a McLeod icon. Her retirement in October of 2016 after 44 years of service was an emotional experience for many McLeod staff members and visitors who were used to seeing her briskly moving through the corridors in her classic white nursing uniform and starched white hat. This “angel in white” set a pace that most could not keep up with as she cared for countless patients.
One of her very important legacies is The Guest House at McLeod. In the early 1980s, Dot helped found the McLeod Patient Representative Program whose purpose is to develop meaningful relationships with patients, enhancing the delivery of healthcare. In this role, she was one of the first to recognize the need for a safe, comfortable, inexpensive place for family members to stay on the hospital campus while their loved one was cared for at McLeod Regional Medical Center.
As fate would have it, Dot traveled to New York with a friend whose husband was being treated at a hospital there. They were able to stay at the hospital’s Guest House. Dot returned to Florence with a new mission – to establish a Guest House at McLeod.
In 1995, after a successful fundraising campaign by the McLeod Foundation, The Guest House at McLeod opened across the street from McLeod Regional Medical Center. Since that time, families from all over the United States have found “a home away from home.”
Often, the need for the Guest House is not planned ahead of time. In the case of Janis Dunham, she suddenly became ill while visiting a friend in South Carolina.
Janis and Shirley Davis had met in high school in California and been friends for 57 years. When Shirley moved to McColl, South Carolina, Janis began coming to South Carolina from California once a year to visit.
“Shirley had a guest room furnished with some of my mom’s belongings that would stay there until her next visit,” said Bethany Clark, Janis’ daughter. “Shirley has brittle bone disease so it was always easier for my mom to fly out there to visit her.”
Janis had plans to spend a few weeks with Shirley in early 2017. “She had flown to South Carolina with a cold, but her condition grew worse,” explained Bethany. “Because Shirley does not drive, they had to call an ambulance one night when my mom was having difficulty breathing. She was treated and released, but had to be taken back to the hospital the next evening. At this point, she was admitted to a hospital in North Carolina for a week, but that hospital could not seem to get ahead of my mom’s lung condition.”
Suffering from pneumonia and empyema, a complication from pneumonia, the hospital staff felt it was in Janis’ best interest to transfer her to McLeod Regional Medical Center.
Janis arrived at McLeod in late January. Her husband, Dave, immediately made the trip east to be by her side at McLeod. Where he was going to stay or how long he would be in Florence did not cross Dave’s mind – his only concern was for Janis. Fortunately for Dave, he soon learned about The Guest House at McLeod.
“The McLeod Guest House was a sanctuary for us,” said Bethany. “If we had not had the offer of the Guest House extended to us, my dad had originally planned to stay with Shirley who lives at least an hour away from Florence. He had also stayed with my mom in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, but he was not getting solid sleep in that environment. The Guest House was located far enough away from the hustle, bustle, and concerns of the hospital, yet close enough to be there within minutes if needed.”
Upon their arrival at McLeod, the family learned the extent of Janis’ condition. “Her illness had grown worse, the pneumonia having turned into bilateral pneumonia and she developed other complications,” said Bethany.
Janis passed away surrounded by her family on February 9, 2017.
“I still cannot quite believe that this is not a dream,” said Bethany. “It all seems so very surreal to me. But one thing that I have taken away from this experience is that people go above and beyond what is expected of them, and that makes all the difference in the world in someone else’s time of need.”
Bethany is especially grateful that the visionaries for the Guest House saw a need and fulfilled it. “It certainly eased our burden of finding a place to stay that was close to the hospital. I also appreciate that the offer to stay at the Guest House was extended not only to me, but to my mom’s sister and dad’s sister as well.”
Bethany was also grateful for the laundry facilities in the Guest House. “My dad had only packed a few days worth of clothes. Needless to say, we used the washer and dryer about every two to three days during the 17 days we were there.”
Like Bethany and Dave, Dot’s commitment to the establishment of The Guest House at McLeod has touched countless lives in the region and across the country. While the room charge at the Guest House has remained affordable, there are families who still struggle to financially meet all their medical expenses.
In honor of Dot’s retirement, the McLeod Foundation established the Dot Johnson Fund to ensure that the Guest House continues to provide hospitality regardless of the ability to pay. To date, 159 generous donors have honored Dot by giving more than $24,000 to this fund and 120 families have been supported.
If you would like to support the Dot Johnson Fund, please call the McLeod Foundation at (843) 777-2694.