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A Brighter Children’s House
Stained glass reflects a Baltimore tradition, delights youngsters with cancer.


Nurse Patty Persuhn chose a fish motif for her stained glass creation.

Families thrust into the realm of a serious pediatric illness face a singular kind of misery. Having to travel for treatment from out of town compounds the anxiety. For 13 years now, the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s House at McElderry and Washington streets has been a place for families of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center patients with heart transplants, head injuries or complex surgeries to stay during trying times. It provides 1,000 overnight accommodations per month, has hosted families from every state and 80 foreign countries and operates at 100 percent capacity at all times.

But in June 2006, some of the pressure was relieved when the St. Casimir parish donated its former convent in Canton to be converted to eight apartments for the neediest of children—bone marrow transplant patients.

Living in separate apartments is ideal for these children both because of their length of stay—they must remain within 15 minutes of the hospital for months at a time—and because they are immunocompromised.

“We tell these families, Wear a mask when you’re out of the room; wash your hands frequently. So living in a single room with communal living areas became uncomfortable,” says Patricia Persuhn, pediatric bone marrow transplant coordinator. “Before, we would do anything to find housing, including renting apartments or hotel rooms, but most families couldn’t afford that. This was just what we needed because now people feel more at home.”

Persuhn herself took extra steps to help the residents feel at ease. When she first toured the houses at St. Casimir’s, she noticed that the transoms above the doors were clear glass. “I thought it was missing something,” she recalls. “Baltimore is known for its beautiful stained glass transoms, its marble steps and its painted screens.” Persuhn, who has been creating stained glass for five years, decided to see to the three transoms. It took her six months to complete, but this summer the pieces were installed to much acclaim from the residents. One unexpected benefit: the heavy glass insulated the rooms against the Baltimore heat.            

Brian Morrison, founder and CEO of the Believe in Tomorrow Children’s Foundation, says the stained glass hits just the right note. “It does exactly what we try to achieve. It makes the place colorful and cheery and child-focused. She hit a home run with this. The kids have been captivated by the images they see in the glass.”

— Mary Ellen Miller



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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