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Hotels for Heroes Helps Navy Family Care for Their Premature Son

The Chandlers found themselves stressed and sleep-deprived after commuting multiple times a day during their son's extended NICU stay. The Fisher House Foundation stepped in to help, providing a free hotel stay and priceless peace of mind.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published January 20, 2023
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Image: Kristina Bessolova | Shutterstock

From stressful-sleepless nights spent worrying to days spent in the hospital waiting to bring baby home, having a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can be a difficult journey. Among all the stress, one foundation is chipping in to make the road home a little easier for military and veteran families.

Navy sailor Nathan Chandler and his wife, Erica, were preparing to greet their first child when, at just over 35 weeks, they learned that they would need an emergency C-section. Shortly after birth, it became clear that baby Henry was in need of a little extra care at the NICU.

While the Chandlers initially paid out of pocket to stay at a hotel 20 minutes from the hospital for a few days, they soon learned that their baby boy had a breathing issue that would require a longer stay. Strapped for cash like most new parents but in need of a shorter commute to see their newborn, a case worker at the hospital recommended the Fisher House Foundation’s Hotel for Heroes program.

The Fisher House Foundation is best known for its network of 94 comfort homes where military and veteran families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving medical treatment. “I like to think I’m pretty proud, and it sounded like charity, so I refused it in the beginning,” Nathan said in a press release. “Then I realized this could be a big help. We’d be literally down the street from the hospital, and it would take off one less stressful thing. Especially with having a baby in the NICU, commuting long distances, wife recovering from a C-section. It was pretty stressful.”

Just a short stay at a hotel just down the street did indeed make a big difference. “The hotel we got from [Fisher House], we were 30 seconds away. It was amazing,” Erica said. “And the staff at the hotel, on day one, I had gotten a room and check-in was at, I think 3, and I called the hotel at noon, crying because I was so tired. And the woman was like, ‘Honey, come now. We have a room for you. Just come.’ They didn’t care that we were early. She even had a nice setup for me in the room with water and snacks.”

After a few more days and nights spent between the hotel and the hospital, the Chandlers finally got to bring a healthy Henry home. Grateful for their baby’s health, the NICU staff and their Fisher House family.

Since its inception, the Fisher House Foundation and its Hotels for Heroes program has saved military and veteran families an estimated $547 million in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation and provided 11.5 million days of free stays for those in need.  The foundation also operates the Hero Miles Program, using donated frequent flyer miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members.

You can learn more about the Fisher House Foundation, at FisherHouse.org.

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