Stories above the streets of Boston's bustling Longwood Medical Area, all three members of the Bish family were led into a spacious one-bedroom apartment by New England Patriots Foundation president Josh Kraft, long snapper Joe Cardona and tight end Matt Sokol.
There was a bit of decorating to do still, with posters and framed memorabilia leaning against a few walls. But the sunshine-filled corner unit was completely furnished and just steps away from Boston Children's Hospital, where Sam and Brynne Bish's newborn son Cillian receives treatment necessary to save his life.
The setup is much less stressful than living out of a duffle bag in the intensive care unit, Sam noted, taking it all in between profuse thanks to the Fisher House, Bob's Discount Furniture, and the Patriots for making it all possible.
"The thanks are coming from us," Cardona told the Marine after a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the partnership between the three organizations.
"What's important is that while you're here in New England, this is a comfortable place that you can call home and receive the treatment you deserve. From a fellow service member and a New England Patriot, I'm just so happy you're here to take advantage of the area. There's no one better than Jen and her team at the Fisher House to welcome you to Boston and we're excited to have you."
The Bishes welcomed Cillian to the world on February 15, but his anatomy scan a month later revealed devastating news.
Their baby boy had a heart defect that would become fatal without intervention, and the only treatment available is a series of three open-heart surgeries.
"These are the most complicated heart surgeries to ever be performed and the survival rate can be fairly low, depending on the institution you're you're going to," Brynne said. "We did our research and within two days after his diagnosis, we flew out to Boston to see the care at Boston Children's. On the flight home, we turned to each other and said, 'What do you think?' We both knew we needed to go to Boston."
Easier said than done for the Cleveland couple, but according to Sam, there was no doubt in their minds when they saw the hospital and met the care team.
Not to mention the Norwood procedure, the first of the three surgeries Cillian needed due to his hypoplastic left heart syndrome, was first performed and perfected by a Boston physician.
"The care here has been so comprehensive, more so than any other institution in the world," said Brynne. "I even talked to Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins, which both have wonderful institutions, and we told them about our thought about moving to Boston. They said if you can make it there, go to Boston because this is the place to be for these kinds of surgeries."
Before the decision could be made, the Bish family had to face more realities of the situation.
Understandably, they couldn't afford two rent payments and the rising costs of living along with impending medical bills. With Brynne in law school, the husband and wife live off one income, but are prepared to do whatever it took to get their baby the best possible care.
"We were going to take on the debt that we needed to care for our son," Brynne said. "That's when we received a call from the Fisher House saying that they had a place available for us and that all of the rent owed is covered completely by donations, so we wouldn't have to worry about that additional charge."
Her casual conversation with a nurse revealed Sam's veteran status, and the nurse didn't hesitate to tell them about Fisher House Boston, a non-profit that provides short and long-term housing for military families receiving care in the state's best hospitals.
For the Bishes, every sign kept pointing to Boston Children's Hospital. Now they're just a walk away, with the ability to focus on what really matters.
"We had slept and stayed at the hospital while he was in the ICU for 43 days," Brynne said. "Just having the convenience of being able to walk to your apartment if you forgot something or if you needed a new pair of clothes. Even when he left and was discharged, he had appointments once or twice every day just to maintain his care because he is in between the first and second surgery and this is the most critical part of his life. A lot of infants don't even make it past this stage.
"Having the convenience of being able to walk to the hospital and back every day for the kind of care that he needs, allows me to maintain my schoolwork, it allows him to maintain his job requirements and it allows us to just maintain as much normalcy of life with an infant as possible. That's been just a huge blessing."
Since its inception in 2014, the Fisher House has hosted over 2,700 families. Thanks to a collaboration with the Patriots Foundation and Bob's Discount Furniture, three of those apartments are now completely refurnished, ready for the Bishes and any other military families seeking medical treatment in the area.
"We couldn't do what we do without partnerships like this, Bob's Discount Furniture and the Patriots," said Jennifer Deluca, executive director of the Fisher House Boston.
"We were paying $1,000 an apartment for rented furniture, but this is a gift that's priceless. What they're doing for our families is incredible. They're providing that home away from home with us."
Learn more about Fisher House Boston here.
In honor of Month of the Military Child, the New England Patriots Foundation and Bob's Discount Furniture teamed up with the Fisher House in Boston to refurnish three apartments that house military families in need of receiving medical card. On Wednesday, April 19, 2023, Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona and tight end Matt Sokol helped upgrade and decorate the apartment of the Bish Family, who has been staying in an apartment provided by the Fisher House Boston, free of charge, since January 2, while their 9-week-old, Cillian, receives care at Boston Children's Hospital. The Bish family had come from Cincinnati to Boston to treat Cillian's severe heart defect. The Bish family qualified for this care through Cillian's father's service in the U.S. Marine Corps.