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Low-cost lodging to open across from Annapolis hospital

ANNAPOLIS — The small hotel-sized rooms are still empty of beds and the other trappings that eventually will grace the new building across from Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Cathy-Brady Copertino, Anne Arundel Medical Center's executive director of oncology, checks out construction progress on the new Hackerman-Patz House across from AAMC.

No art has been hung on the walls.

But that didn’t stop Cathy Copertino from seeing what this building would become for patients’ families as she surveyed the progress in the two-story structure on Jennifer Road in Annapolis.

“Oh, this is looking great,” said the executive director of AAMC’s Geaton and JoAnn DeCesaris Cancer Institute as she examined the rooms during a recent tour of the construction.

The Hackerman-Patz House at AAMC will soon begin offering low-cost lodging in its 20 rooms. It will provide out-of-area families a place of respite while their loved ones are being treated in the cancer, neo-natal and intensive-care facilities.

It joins a collection of other Hackerman-Patz houses at hospitals around the state made possible by donations from Willard Hackerman, chief executive officer of Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

The home is named the Hackerman-Patz House in honor of Hackerman and his wife, Lillian Patz Hackerman. The 21,000-square-foot building will cost approximately $2 million.

The building’s residential appearance makes it look out of place at its location and sparks curiosity from passers-by. The brick facility, in a semi-wooded lot, is expected to open by the end of January.

The house was created with the help of a steering committee of hospitality business experts, as well as health experts and families who have used other Hackerman-Patz facilities.

One of the committee members, Hala Durrah, said she knows all too well how valuable the houses can be.

Her oldest child had a rare liver disease and needed a transplant. When the child was being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Durrah stayed nearby at a Hackerman-Patz House with her younger children.

While trying to catch up on their sleep there, Durrah and her husband got a call in the middle of the night telling them that her daughter’s transplant had failed and they needed consent to rush her into an emergency surgery for a new transplant.

“Things can change in two seconds,” Durrah said. “We threw on our clothes, ran across the street, gave the consent and got to see her before she went into the (operating room.) It was a godsend to be able to be close.”

One of the fundraisers for the project, Heather Mohr of Arnold, was moved by the idea of the home when she heard that cancer patients from outside the county would spend time between twice-daily chemotherapy treatments sitting in chairs at the local mall.

“I said ‘What do you mean these women just go sit in the mall by themselves?’ It sounded horrific to me,” she said.

Durrah said she was thrilled when she learned AAMC, where she was treated as a child and where her husband now works, would have a house in which patients’ families can stay.

“It gives you a home away from home. I was able to go and have dinner with my other kids and bring some normalcy to an otherwise not-normal situation.”