Keeping Families Close
Helping families heal
Erin never thought it would happen to her family. Her one-year-old son was rushed to UNM Hospital and was diagnosed with an illness that would lead to many stays at the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
“My husband and I took shifts watching our son in the PICU,” Erin says. “Once we had talked with the doctors and grasped what our child would have to endure, the initial adrenaline rush turned into absolute exhaustion. Eventually we needed to escape the walls of our child’s room from time to time to try to feel some normalcy.” That’s when the Ronald McDonald Family Room, located just down the hall from the PICU, became the family’s refuge in its time of need.
“I was part of the Junior League fund-raising team that planned and designed the Family Room originally,” Erin says. “I just never thought that one day I would be using it. It was our “room” away from home. It’s designed like your favorite living room, with leather chairs and a full kitchen nearby. There are free snacks and beverages on the counter, as well as computers to use and laundry facilities.”
They met many families there just like them- looking tired and broken and needing a comfortable place to rest and visit with other families going through a difficult time. “Many families would have other children with them, siblings, “Erin says, “and they could enjoy a snack, play one of the many board games in the room, or read a book in a comfy chair.”
Erin says she and her husband made it their job while at the hospital to be sure other families there knew about the Family Room. “We told every family we saw about the room. You could see their amazement when they saw it for the first time.” Erin’s family continues to support Ronald McDonald House and the Family Room through both financial contributions and volunteering so that other families will find the same comfort they did for years to come.
It meant the world to us that we had a “Home away from home”
My son Eli came earlier than we expected. My water broke when I was only 22 weeks pregnant. We had no idea what to expect or even if he would survive. I stayed in the hospital in Farmington until I went into labor at 23 weeks and five days when I was rushed to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque. Fortunately, I was able to keep him inside for another week and he arrived at 24 weeks and five days. He was so tiny; fragile. During our stay at the Ronald McDonald House, my son received a tracheostomy and feeding tube due to his many complications.
Our home was three hours away, so it meant the world to us that we had a “home away from home” while my son endured a 362 day hospitalization. It was so difficult being away from my home town and my five other children, but it was great that we had a way to come together through the Ronald McDonald House on weekends and school breaks.
There were times that I’d be so exhausted I could barely see straight. I would walk into the Ronald McDonald House and smell dinner. I was so grateful that I never had to worry about meals when I was “home”. There were other times that I spent long periods of time connecting with staff or other families in the House. It was so wonderful to have a support system while we were in the most difficult situation of our lives.
Without the Ronald McDonald House, I can honestly say that we wouldn’t have been able to make it through our VERY long year. Even to this day, when we have to come back for appointments for my son, it feels like we are coming home. There are so many difficult aspects to my son’s care; it’s a huge blessing that there’s at least one area I don’t need to worry about, because no matter what the reason for our trip to Albuquerque, at least we know can go to our home away from home.
Gabriella, wise beyond her years
Gabriella was diagnosed with A.L.L. (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) in April 2013. Her treatment lasted two and a half years with monthly spinal taps, lumbar punctures, two blood transfusions, and countless days of being inpatient at the hospital. With no pediatric oncologist in Farmington, Gabriella and I traveled to Albuquerque for chemotherapy treatments and other procedures while her father stayed home to work and care for our other two children.
The Ronald McDonald House gave us stability when we needed it most. The staff and volunteers became extended family members, sharing the highs and lows of what we were experiencing. When Gabriella was not attending a doctor’s appointment or in treatment, she was playing with other children at the House while I relaxed nearby. Knowing that the Ronald McDonald House was there providing all the comforts of home, allowed us to focus our attention on her medical care.
Gabriella finished chemo in September 2015, but there will still be monthly checkups for an entire year, along with another six months of breathing treatments. During this time, we will continue to stay at our “home away from home.” Gabriella is now in the third grade and is doing awesome. She looks healthy, has gained weight, and her hair has finally grown back. Gabriella is wise beyond her years and still a typical nine-year old at the same time.
We are so grateful to have the help of the Ronald McDonald House
My four-year-old son, Ozmar, was born with normal hearing, which was then wiped out by bacterial meningitis by the age of two. As a result, he was a candidate for cochlear implants on both ears. Doctors suggested that the medical procedure be done quickly before any bony growth developed in the cochlea as a result of the meningitis. And it meant we had to leave our home in Roswell and travel to Albuquerque for medical care.
For the past two years, Ozmar and I have attended regular Parent-Infant Program Sessions at Presbyterian Ear Institute (PEI). We are happily seeing progress with his treatment. What has meant the most to my son and I, is knowing we have a place to stay, and the support we have from the staff.
Ozmar and I first came to the Ronald McDonald House in April 2014. Since then, we have stayed just over 280 nights. As part of his therapy, I learned to carry out strategies to help Ozmar build his listening and spoken language skills. This took regular, intensive, systematic sessions at PEI, which is why it was so helpful that we could stay close by at the Ronald McDonald House.
After a whole day of learning, Ozmar looks forward to going to the House so he can just be a four-year old and enjoy life as a child. Ozmar has grown so close to the House and staff and has learned to say most of their names. It brings happiness to my heart knowing my son enjoys spending time at the Ronald McDonald House. I am thankful the Ronald McDonald House has been there the past year providing a stable home-away-from-home during his treatment.
Though we are still on this long journey, Ozmar has made such incredible improvements from only saying one word, to now saying more than four word sentences. We are more than thankful and grateful to the Ronald McDonald House and the staff for their encouragement and letting us know what a great difference they have all seen in my son’s speech and hearing. This gives me more strength to keep doing the best for Ozmar.