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Reasons The Ronald McDonald House Is More Than Just a Room

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If you are preparing your family for a stay at a Ronald McDonald House, let me be the first to offer you my shoulder and my ear. From one parent to another, I know your worry. I feel your pain. I know the ache and I feel the fear with you.

I have been you. I am you. I will be you again.

During the multiple times we have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, it has always begun to feel more like home than it did not. While our first stay was just shy of one week, our second stay was a solid three months. This most recent stay was thankfully just one more week.

In those combined nearly four months that we needed the Ronald McDonald House, I came to understand that the services they provide are invaluable, indescribable, and unimaginably important to families like mine. I had no idea.

Before our family needed the Ronald McDonald House, I had no concept of the magnitude of their services. I was not aware of what exactly it is that they offer families facing medical procedures with their children.

I was not aware of the depth of gratitude I would feel for the volunteers; those that donate their time and money, their goods and services to people they have never met.

If you are reading this as a potential volunteer – I thank you. On behalf of every parent that has ever stepped foot in RMH doors, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

The Ronald McDonald House does not merely offer a place to sleep or a place to eat. Yes, it is a place for rest and a place to fill your belly before heading back to the hospital, but it is so much more than that.

Our story is long and terrifying, and I pray that yours is nothing like ours.

Reasons The Ronald McDonald House Is More Than Just a Room

The Ronald McDonald House is a tub in which you give your son a bath and rub him down with iodine the night before handing him over to his surgeons.

It is a bed to lie on through a night as you get no rest. Instead you will count the hours while you stare at his tiny, sleeping face, praying that it will not be the last. A night spent wondering how you got into this position, and what the outcome will be.

The Ronald McDonald House is a bed to cuddle up next to him for what could potentially be the last time as you breathe in the sweet scent of baby mixed with the tang of iodine.

It is a bed to finally fall asleep in after twelve hours spent waiting for the surgeons to finish operating, and another two hours before you are allowed in the intensive care unit to see your son – to touch him.

It is a pillow to rest your head on after hours spent watching his little bandaged chest rise and fall, staring at the heart rate monitor as it dips and flutters, as you listen to the pump of his blood pressure cuff as it compresses and relaxes.

The Ronald McDonald House is a place to rest when you’ve been awake for 38 hours and you still can’t sleep.

It is a quiet place to go after you sit with the Chaplain to pray and to call your family members.

A place to sit alone after they resuscitate your son for the second time in one month, and while they place him on the most elaborate life support machine the world has ever seen.

It is a refuge after long and exhausting days spent playing Scrabble for the 114th time and after completing your 98th crossword in seven weeks while sitting at his bedside waiting for his finger to twitch or his toe to move.

The Ronald McDonald House is a place of refuge after you have spoken to the surgeons and doctors about your options and about your son’s quality of life after he wakes up – if he wakes up.

A place to go and think about that decision and what that implies.

The Ronald McDonald House is a place to go when he has finally been weaned off of life support. After eight long days of hard decisions, watching the nurses work to keep him alive.

Eight days of relying on machines to pump his blood for him and to think about how he is addicted to adult doses of Morphine, Versed and Fentanyl.

The Ronald McDonald House is a safe haven after hours of watching your son fight his withdrawals to the medication that helped save his life, when he finally falls asleep after the methadone and ativan kicks in.

It is a kitchen to sit and eat a sandwich at 6:30 in the morning because you haven’t eaten in 14 hours. Or a hot meal prepared by (volunteer) strangers when nothing else is available to you and your money has run out.

The Ronald McDonald House is a place to rest and a place to feel at home. A place to find other parents who’s faces look as gaunt as your own face must.

It is a place where miracles are celebrated, hard decisions are made, where praying pays off and hearts are both broken and mended.

It is a place that some parents have their last memory of their child before handing them over, never to leave that hospital again.

The Ronald McDonald House is so much more than a bed or a shower or a kitchen.

Our family is fortunate for many reasons. We have our son; we were able to stay with our son during every single hiccup he had in recovery.  The times we almost lost him and the times they brought him back.

We were able to walk across the street at any time to sit in the quiet of our room without the alarms and the alerts and the monitors buzzing in our ears.

We were able to sit in the quiet living room with our family members and discuss what had happened that day or play a simple game of Monopoly to clear our minds.

When I say that the Ronald McDonald House is so much more than a room, or a bed, or a shower, or a kitchen…

I mean it is everything.

To the volunteers that choose to donate resources and time to Ronald McDonald House Charities, thank you.  You may never know how deeply your actions have impacted families like mine, or what it means to parents like me, but please know that you are truly appreciated.

If you would like to learn more about donating to your local RMH, I encourage you to find the home nearest you.

For more background on Caden’s story, I invite you to read the following:

Caden’s Feet: Walking the Path of Congenital Heart Defect {CHD Parent}
The Day I Became a Heart Mom {1 in 100}
Things I Wish I Would Have Known About Having a Critically Ill Child
Pulse-Oximetry at Birth (I’m THAT Friend) + Why Isn’t This Standard Testing in ALL States?
Ronald McDonald House Donation Run (and why we donate)

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  1. God Bless you and Caden and the rest of your family. I too know what it's like to stay at RMH while your child is having life saving or possibly life ending surgery. My daughter was not even supposed to make it through her first day of life. She is now 36 years old. God does miracles every day. I wish I could say that was the one and only time I sat waiting for her to die. There were many, many nights I laid awake watching the flashing lights waiting for the alarms to go off on her monitor. The spine disease that nearly did her in because it was threatening to cut off the nerves to her organs. That was when RMH in Cleveland OH was there for us while she had 12 hour surgeries, 3 of them. Oh I could go on, but I'm here to praise RMH. I met many people from all over the world that came to Cleveland Clinic with their very sick children. I never leave McDonald's with my change and tell people around me why I'm putting it in the collection boxes. All the best, Barb
  2. Pingback: Learning Barriers for Children with a Congenital Heart Defects