Julie Teets faced an impossible decision in the final days before her 28-year-old daughter, Katie, died of breast cancer: Should Katie be at home where she could be comfortable or in a hospital where she could be properly cared for? Neither option brought solace to Teets, an agent with Long & Foster Real Estate in Winchester, Va.
Teets’ home, where her daughter was married just weeks before her death, held fond memories of Katie’s life. In fact, Teets purchased the house specifically because Katie imagined her wedding ceremony alongside a pond on the property. “I’ll never forget it,” Teets says, recalling the first time she and her daughter saw the home. “[Katie] got out of the car and she looked at the pond in the yard and she said to me, ‘I’m going to get married by that pond.’ She got married by that pond 364 days after she made that comment.”
Teets didn’t want the place where Katie celebrated life to also be a reminder of her death. So, Teets and other family members surrounded Katie in the hospital where she passed away. It was the better option of two unfulfilling choices, Teets says. “We’re thankful that she didn’t die [at home] because we still feel happiness here and see life here,” she explains.
“I hate to say it because the hospital staff did everything they possibly could, but it wasn’t enough,” Teets continues. She remembers not wanting to leave Katie’s side even for fresh air because it took 20 minutes to wind through the hospital hallways to the outdoors—and Teets didn’t want to miss Katie’s precious last moments. “I’d been awake for 48 hours with no place to rest my head. Our family members had no place to find comfort. And I just remember that after Katie passed, it was my middle son, Brandon, who said that we needed a better place for these situations.”
Thus, the idea for Katie’s Comfort House was planted. Teets’ goal is to build or retrofit a 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot, single-story home with six private bedrooms, a common kitchen and a common living space where families can say goodbye to dying loved ones in peace and comfort.
Each private bedroom is to be outfitted with a couch and love seat so that family members can rest. They’ll also be equipped with individual exits that will lead to a private or semiprivate porch area so that family members can take a moment outside without having to leave the proximity of the room. “We’ll have a huge communal kitchen stocked with snacks and a family room with things to keep kids entertained,” Teets says.
Katie’s Comfort House will rely on home health aides and nurses to provide needed care as well.
Right now, Teets and her community in Winchester are raising funds to create a $1.5 million endowment so that Katie’s Comfort House begins on strong footing. Between $300,000 and $400,000 has been invested thus far. “Katie was powerful,” Teets says. “Remembering that and seeing how our community has jumped in to help this thing come to life—it keeps me going.”