Megan & Matt Kilan of Norfolk, Nebraska suddenly found themselves making the trip to Columbus where one of their twin baby boys would be undergoing treatment for lung issues in November of last year. As the couple come upon the one year mark of being guests at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, they took a moment to reflect on their experience staying in the House in a video interview. You can watch the interview by clicking the image below.
“Thank you Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio for supporting my family and my GrandBoo in the #ronaldmcdonaldfamilyroom at OhioHealth Riverside NICU. Being in the NICU is a challenging time for all families. Some families spend months in the unit caring for their newborns, but to experience a place where families can go and relax and be taken care of, was truly a blessing. Thank you for being there for families and my family! My granddaughter JB thanks you too! Greatly appreciated! ❤”
This was the kind comment left by Cassandra White-Graves in response to the above picture of her and her granddaughter, Alaya Anderson, taken last month in the Ronald McDonald Family Room at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital. It was posted to our Facebook page after we captured the moment of the two taking advantage of the play area in the room while awaiting the arrival of Alaya’s sister. Our Ronald McDonald Family Room at the hospital is the first RMFR in Central Ohio. It has only been open a few years and thousands of family members have already made use of the room to relax and recharge in between visits to the NICU or pediatric patient’s room.
One thing that visitors to the RMFR often say in feedback about using the room, is how grateful they are for the staff member who welcomed their family into this restful space. Yet, there aren’t staff members keeping the room available 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. The fine folks that keep the room open and attend to the needs of families using it, are actually always volunteers! Recently, a web page was set up as a way for folks to show support for the RMFR and the volunteers who make sure the room is clean and whom provide an ear of empathy and sympathy. If you would like to contribute to this volunteer-based fundraiser, just click here.
Our youngest son, Braxton was in 5th Grade and on October 24, 2013, his school notified us because he had a very severe headache and was not able to return to class so he had to be picked up. When my wife Charity got there, they told her that he did not have a fever, but he could not return to class because he appeared to have a migraine. When he came out of the nurse’s office, he threw up, and continued throwing up and was taken home and given medicine for what was thought to be a flu or bug but the vomiting and headache both continued. He couldn’t even stand the lights being on. At about 3 am on the 25th, he was moaning and in a fetal position on the bathroom floor, holding the back of his head. He was then taken to our local hospital ER because it was clear something was very wrong.
At the hospital, they stated they believed that he had a respiratory infection, and that he was dehydrated from vomiting, which caused the headache. Despite my wife’s attempts to explain to them that he had the headache first, they treated him with fluids, antibiotic and a pain medication, and sent us home and he appeared better at that time. After going home and getting him back to sleep, around 8:30 am on October 25, 2013, he woke up again moaning and in a fetal position holding his head. At this point, my wife called his regular Pediatrician at home and told her to meet me at her office. Upon looking at him, Braxton’s physician, Dr. Lall, stated that she believed he had meningitis, and that I needed to take him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital immediately. When asked why our local hospital would not have caught this she stated she did not know, but the good thing about him getting the fluids in the middle of the night was that I could transport him rather than him requiring to be taken by squad.
Upon getting to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, they began running tests based on the information that my wife and Dr. Lall had provided. They did a spinal tap to determine if Braxton did have meningitis and the initial results showed that he did have meningitis, but the doctors were uncertain if it was viral or bacterial, as he had received antibiotics at our local hospital, which would have impacted the results. They needed to do more tests and they would not know for certain until the next day.
So after being in the ER at Nationwide Children’s Hospital all day and into the night, Braxton would have to spend the night in the hospital, and myself and our oldest son Zacheus were instructed to go to the Ronald McDonald House. After arriving at the Ronald McDonald House, we were processed efficiently and checked into our room without any issues saving us time, money, miles, and kept us close to Children’s Hospital in case we were needed. It can never be expressed enough how valuable a resource the Ronald McDonald House is and the services they provide to people that desperately need something to go right during a time of need. We were fortunate to only have needed to stay one night as the next day, Braxton was released from the hospital. It was determined that he had viral meningitis, as all of the cultures were back. He tested positive for Viral & negative for Bacterial. He continued to have symptoms for a while but otherwise made a full recovery.
My short time there and seeing first hand all the families that are impacted in such a positive way by the services provided by the Ronald McDonald House, and the reality that some of them have loved ones in even worse situations needing further assistance and long term care is so valued. The previous acts of giving and kindness are why I have always been willing to help aid your efforts as well and Children’s Hospital when I can, whether in a professional capacity or with community service projects we have done with the sports teams I’ve lead through the years.
Thanks Again So Much,
John Wheeler & Family
We often get notes of thanks here at the Ronald McDonald House. Those messages are often short notes from mother’s who want to share with us how much they value the gift of togetherness our home provided for their family. We received this message from a mom on Facebook earlier this year. With her permission, we would like to share her note of thanks to you, our supporters, as her son is about to turn 21-years-old. Because without you as our foundation, we couldn’t have been able to provide a temporary home in Columbus for her and her family while her son got better.
Sunday, April 7, was the four year anniversary of my son’s first brain surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He was 16 years old at the time. The proposed treatment plan included one brain surgery, 1-2 days in the PICU, 10-12 days in the neuroscience unit and then go home. My other two children were 12 and 14 at the time and our family resides in Delaware County- 45 minutes away from campus and gas was around $4.53/ gallon. We were already struggling with the transportation costs and medical bills from previous hospital stays.
We planned with the staff and social workers to stay for 14 days but then things got really ugly for my son and plans changed- radically. The short version of this long tale is that we ended up spending 10 days in PICU, 10 days on the neuroscience floor, 59 days in the rehabilitation unit and instead of one brain surgery, my son endured 3 brain surgeries during that time. Many tears shed. Many meals cooked and snacks provided by the house. Your love and support did not change or waiver even though our plans changed weekly and sometimes daily.
There is much more I could say but there are really not enough words to tell you what RMHC of Central Ohio means to us. My son turned 20 last fall. He managed to graduate from high school the summer of 2017. I had him take last year off due to some other medical issues that we needed to manage due to the casualties incurred from the brain surgeries that saved his life. However, I am thrilled to share with you that my son began his college journey this past January at Columbus State Community College. His short-term goal is to graduate with an associate’s degree from the Social and Human Services program at Columbus State. His long term goal is to earn a master’s degree in psychiatry. These dreams would not be possible without the support we received from you.
At about 20 weeks into my second pregnancy, I was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening condition. At 25 weeks, I started experiencing complications and spent several weeks in the hospital. There was a brief period when I was discharged from the hospital. However, the doctors agreed with my husband and I that we did not feel comfortable coming home as we are about an hour from the closest hospital that could help should I experience complications again or, worse yet, should my condition become more severe.
Thankfully, the social worker on my case at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center was able to get us a room at your Ronald McDonald House. Unfortunately, we only stayed about a week as I was readmitted back into the hospital for the duration of my pregnancy. Once my daughter was born, we stayed at the House again while she was in the NICU for approximately 2 weeks.
We are so extremely thankful for the Ronald McDonald House. Obviously, I was able to be close to the help I needed should I have needed it, but also because family members were able to be with our 18 month old son and be together as a family during that time.
The Love family from North Carolina has been spotlighted often in our blogs & social media posts. Christin and her mother’s stories allow us to give you, our supporters, some insight into what it’s like to be family that needs and uses the Ronald McDonald House often. This time, we’re featuring Christin Love because she’s also been sharing her stories with school children back home in North Carolina.
A couple of the pictures with this post were taken at Cardinal Charter Academy in Cary, North Carolina where Christin spoke a few months ago. She shared her medical journey with them and told them how much she loves the Ronald McDonald House here in Columbus. As her mother, Michelle, tells us, “She shared with them that she has not been scared to go through all of the test, surgeries, and procedures that she has had because her family has been able to be with her and that could have only have happened because of the Ronald McDonald House.”
As Michelle explains in an email to us, “After hearing Christin’s story, Cardinal Charter Academy wanted to help out the Ronald McDonald House! They decided to support Christin’s RMH not only during this past school year but during the upcoming school year as well. They are doing this by making blankets for the welcome bags and collecting pop tabs for the House. One of Cardinal Charter’s teachers, Ms. Laurie Hohstadt, said that her 4th grade class has shown so much excitement in supporting the Ronald McDonald House that now the entire school is helping support Christin’s home away from home by collecting pop tabs in each classroom and at the front office!”
Thank you, Chirstin, for sharing your story back in your hometown area. Thanks, also, to Ms. Hohstadt and the student’s who send love and support to all of our families at the House. And thanks to all who have donated pop tabs and other items to the students so they can share that support with our families as well.
The Love family has been coming to Columbus from Durham, North Carolina for more than four years now. They know what it’s like having to be away from loved ones and family back home to make the road trip to Columbus very well. Christin Love was just turning five years old when her parents thought she had the flu, her mother Michelle tells us. Trips to a local children’s hospital revealed that Christin actually had some kidney issues and a problem with her spinal cord. The local doctors referred her to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. The family first flew to Columbus, but has made many road trips here since then and have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House across the street from NCH several times.
This past week, we met up with Joyce Orban, Christin’s Grandmother, in our kitchen to get her thoughts about staying at the House so frequently. We’ve also been asking families staying at the House to watch our new short film, “Something’s Missing” in the movie room at our House, to get their impression of this new 5-minute video. The film was made by a local film production company in an effort to try and capture the exhaustive feeling family members have when it’s necessary to make a long trip to Columbus to be with an ill child. Michelle & Christin accepted our offer to watch the film and give us their reaction. Both interviews are featured below.
We want to thank the Love family for giving so graciously of their time, and giving us their thoughts, more than a few times over the years they’ve been staying with us so that we may share their experiences with our community.
We showed our short film, Something’s Missing, to Patricia Hicks, a mom who regularly travels from Kentucky to stay at the Ronald McDonald House when her 2 children have appointments or procedures. After we showed her the film in our movie room, here was her impression:
Watch how this guest felt after seeing the #somethingsmissingfilm. Watch it for yourself https://youtu.be/Cm9NOptHCTk
Posted by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio on Monday, March 18, 2019
If you haven’t seen this award-winning 5-minute film yourself, please watch it here on Facebook or here on Youtube and please share widely to help us get the message out about how our charity helps keep families near their hospitalized children. Thank you!
Could You Imagine?
If something went missing from your home, would you notice?
For families with a sick child, something does go missing.
That something is stability. Security. Time. Each other.
Some mornings, it is quiet – the kind of quiet only empty houses can be. Some mornings, the toast is left uneaten and the sleepy ones must find their way to the car and begin a drive they’ve done time and time again. Some mornings, the coffee isn’t enough to make the journey bearable, the smiles are forced, and the difficulties are as daunting as can be.
The process that you thought you would be going through together, you find yourself apart – supporting your child, taking care of obligations, and doing what you can to keep yourself and your family afloat. But you feel like a fish out of water. You are stretched too thin. There are bills piling up, household cleaning you don’t have the energy to do, and a brave face to be put on.
When a family is split between long commutes to hospitals and keeping up with the responsibilities that life demands, the toll that it takes is severe – emotionally, physically, socially, mentally. At Ronald McDonald House, we are committed to easing up the load that befalls families with sick children.
It has been a long and lonely day and night listening to the soundtrack of a hospital room: medical equipment beeping, sighing, dripping. You and your child’s breathing filling the room. Nurses and doctors entering and exiting, asking how you’re doing, helping your child. Your phone jingles, alerting you of texts from your loved ones saying they’ll be there to “switch shifts” in a few.
You pack up your bag, kiss your child’s forehead, and leave the room. But instead of driving three hours back home, you walk across the street. You check in. Someone hands you a key and joins you as you walk to your room. You enter and set your bag on the bed before falling into it yourself.
After you take a shower, you pay some bills, join in the communal kitchen at lunch time, update your loved ones on Facebook, and return to your room afterwards. You grab your coat, your keys, and your bag. You walk back across the road to the hospital and up to your child’s room. Your family is there. Together.
In our new short film, Something’s Missing, written, directed, edited, and produced by Post House Creative, we wanted to show that when something’s missing, the whole family feels it.
Post House Creative and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio are connected through the married duo of Timothy M. and Kimberly Flaherty, who own Post House Creative and both serve on our Marketing Committee. Tim and Kimberly became involved and fell in love with the mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities a few years ago, and Tim remembers that it felt “natural for us to be able to help in the marketing role. Our staff has helped out cooking a couple meals and other charitable things with the House.” Their daughter, Isabelle, plays the sick child in the short film.
While we usually choose to focus on the hope within the realities experienced by the families who stay within the House walls, we took a new and different route this time. Instead of shorter testimonies, we decided to employ advanced story-telling and create a cinematic piece which leaves the viewer haunted.
When planning, Post House Creative asked, what if Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio wasn’t around or a family didn’t know about it?
While the haunting feeling isn’t found through ghosts or post-apocalyptic zombies popping up on your screen, this film demonstrates how harrowing it is to experience what families with sick children go through without having something as critical as a place to stay near the hospital; a place which doesn’t require payment. Without a place to stay, the logistics of taking care of a sick child are scary. When families have access to a place that is close by, they can rest their head on an actual bed, eat warm food, stretch their legs, shower, and form community with others in the House, and the logistics are more manageable.
Tim explains their decision to feature less dialogue was deliberate and to focus on what visual were captured on screen. They used motivated camera movement and certain shots, chosen specifically to keep the audience wanting more and to emphasize actions speak a lot louder than words.
Post House Creative’s vision has allowed us to tell a story of families in need. They created Something’s Missing without compensation, meaning that all cast and crew volunteered their time, energy, and resources to write, direct, edit, and produce the film. We are so grateful for their generosity and continued support of our mission to keep families together. Their quick turnaround when following a tight timeline is another testament to their skill and dedication.
We are forever grateful. Thank you to the volunteer cast of Ryan Forrestal (Dad), Isabelle Flaherty (Sick Child), Ellie Maetzold (Sister), and Melissa Roslovic (Mom). Thank you to Tim and Kimberly Flaherty, writer Scott Baldner, producer Tony Adkins, editor Kirk Mason, Director of Photography John Massarella, and the rest of the Post House Creative team.
You can help us keep families together by visiting RMHC-CentralOhio.org.
By Rick Shepherd
She’s finally back in her home state. Zariah Donovan and her family’s story have been featured in local TV news reports, People Magazine, Inside Edition, and on Fox News. Today, her hometown TV station back in Utah reported the very good news that the long-term Nationwide Children’s Hospital patient was finally back in her home state with her mom, dad, and sister. Shawn Donovan, her father, quit his career to stay here in Columbus at the Ronald McDonald House while she was across the street at the hospital. Zariah’s mom, Z, stayed with her sister back in Utah. That arrangement would have Shawn staying with us for 2 1/2 years. We last featured the family in a blog post here just before the holidays, when Shawn Donovan was finally given word that his daughter would be able to go back home to Utah.
Last week, Shawn drove home with all of the stuff he had accumulated from such a long stay here at the Ronald McDonald House while Z came here to fly home with Zariah. Click here to see the update from station KSL-TV today on Zariah’s return to Utah.