Gift of Life Shelters Visitors After Car Wreck Leads to Hospitalization at Benefis

Left far from home with no phone, no credit cards, no clothes, no car, and no idea what to do next, Ashley and Teresa Silvas of Colorado found refuge at Gift of Life Housing at Benefis Health System.

The women were on their way home after a visit to Glacier National Park when the car wreck upended their plans and their lives. Both were injured, and Ashley’s mom, Louise, also in the wreck, needed extensive treatment at Benefis.

“We weren’t sure of anything. We didn’t have anything. We didn’t know what to do,” Ashley said, in tears. “My mom was bad off, and we weren’t going to leave her behind.”

Gift of Life Housing provides a place to stay at no cost for patients during cancer treatment and parents caring for an infant in the NICU, as well as in a few other circumstances. Donors support houses at West and East campuses, as well as an RV park for those who would rather bring their own home away from home.

In 2021, Gift of Life had a particularly busy year but remained open throughout the pandemic because of urgent need and committed donors and staff. The program has provided more than 3,359 nights of free lodging for more than 8,597 people in the past 30 years.

In 2021, 259 patients used Gift of Life, and 4 months was the longest patient stay. Patients from 23 Montana counties and 10 states received the gift of free lodging. One guest was 2,467 miles from home when in need of a place to stay during treatment.

Stepping inside was a relief and gave the Silvas time to regroup and heal. 

“We didn’t have anything so figure out how to make it through and get Mom home,” Ashley said. “It was a huge asset to have a place to stay and a bed every night. That was one thing off our plates.”

Louise was hospitalized at Benefis for two weeks, did some rehabilitation, and then spent another week in a Colorado hospital. She’s much better now.

Ashley called Gift of Life “warm and welcoming.”

“I can’t thank you all enough,” she said. “You did something amazing for my family.”