It was a busy day around 9-week-old Cillian Bish but he didn’t seem to notice. Swaddled in a soft green blanket, the newest member of the Bish family woke intermittently with coos and smiles as he was passed back and forth from mom to dad. The day was eventful with news cameras interviewing his father, Sam Bish, a U.S. Marine, and his mother Brynne Bish as well as area dignitaries, players of the New England Patriots and philanthropy organizations.
Unaware of the commotion around him, Cillian, which is Gaelic for “little warrior,” is quietly in the fight of his life as he undergoes care for a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS).
The condition, Brynne told the news outlets, is fatal if left untreated.
Thanks to the world-renowned care of Boston Children’s Hospital, Cillian has already undergone one heart surgery at just three days old and will endure two more critical heart surgeries in the near future.
Now released from hospital for the first time since birth, the Ohio-based family can rest easy in one of three apartments provided by Fisher House Boston, just steps from Boston Children’s, while Cillian continues to receive care.
Photos courtesy of the New England Patriots/Eric J. Adler
Noticing a critical gap for military families seeking medical treatment in the city, Fisher House Boston provides families short and long-term housing nearby several of Boston’s hospitals. More than 60 percent of families served by Fisher House Boston have children receiving care at Boston Children’s.
To commemorate the month of the military child, Bob’s Discount Furniture teamed up with the New England Patriots Foundation to refurnish the Bish’s apartment as well the two other Fisher House Boston apartments, saving the organization thousands of dollars monthly and providing a comfortable place for rest.
“If you raised your hand to serve,” said Fisher House Boston President Jennifer Deluca, “you have a place to stay.”
A recent recipient of a Congressional Medal of Honor, Citizen Honor Service Act Award, Deluca, first started the Fisher House Boston hotel and housing program in 2014 and since has seen more than 2,600 military families hosted for more than 15,000 nights of lodging.
Fisher House Boston is one of 95 like-houses worldwide serving thousands of military families. Where all other Fisher House facilities sit on Veteran’s Association Hospital properties, the Boston-based organization offers residents access to numerous Boston hospitals creating a one-of-a-kind hotel and longer-stay program for military families seeking lifesaving, top-notch care.
“I get to see the families that we serve every single day- our military families that come from all over the country to receive the best medical care in the world- and because of you and your help, we are able to put them up so all they need to focus on is their loved one’s care,” Deluca shared at the ribbon cutting of the refurnished apartments on April 19.
Flanked by members of all the organizations involved in the donation, Deluca’s sentiments were echoed by Fisher House Boston Advisory Board Member, Commander John Benda,76th Commanding Officer USS Constitution.
“As if the military lifestyle wasn’t difficult enough, these unforeseen events, medical emergencies, take our minds out of the game… the relief of stress you provide, gets us back into the fight,” said Benda.
Josh Kraft, President of the New England Patriots Foundation, was joined by New England Patriots players, long snapper, Joe Cardona, U.S. Naval Reserve Lieutenant, and tight end, Matt Sokol, for the donation.
“It’s an honor to be able to partner with such a great group of folks who care and are so passionate about those who support us- the military,” commented Kraft. “Thank you for allowing the Patriots Foundation to play a small part.”
Before moving up to see the newly refurnished apartments, Pat Davies, Senior Vice President Chief Human Resources Officer of Bob’s Discount Furniture, shared her enthusiasm. “The entire Bob’s team is so excited to make this donation of furniture for these really deserving families,” commented Davies. “We recognize the sacrifices of the military families. This is one small way to show our support and deep appreciation for everything you do.”
Cillian made his way into his new home-away-from-home carried by dad with Cardona and Sokol leading the way. New reclining sofas and chairs awaited, courtesy of Bob’s, as well as a new dining room set and bedroom furniture.
“It does help us to sleep so much better at night knowing we have a place to come, a roof over our head, people who are caring for us- looking out for us,” Sam told a news outlet upon seeing his newly furnished apartment for the first time.
After hanging the Patriots’ artwork and making the bed clad in the NFL team’s logo, Cardona paused to comment about what the work with Fisher House Boston means to him. “There’s really two pillars to this organization. There’s championship football and to be a pillar in the community,” he said.
Looking to make Boston home for the foreseeable future, Brynne who just graduated from law school, has accepted a local position in the city. The couple will stay with the Fisher House Boston during the next critical months for Cillian and then seek more permanent residence in the area.
“They were the extending hand we needed when we felt like we were drowning is a sea of worry,” said Brynne.