As we approach Mother’s Day 2018, it’s amazing to think about what a mom might consider, “bumps in the road.” Mothers truly have a unique perspective on life. Giving life. Nurturing the life of their child or children. And often being in the driver’s seat of the family’s journey, especially during those formative years. Cheryl Angus has certainly been navigating her family over some rough roads and through some stormy weather. A traveler’s nightmare that would have many of us wiping out if we were behind the wheel.
Cheryl and her girls have been coming to the Ronald McDonald House here in Columbus off and on for more than eight years. Both of her daughters, 12-year-old Logan & 8-year-old Michala, have health issues that have required them to come up from West Virginia to Nationwide Children’s Hospital regularly over those eight years. Cheryl says it started with an emergency room visit after doctors back home were perplexed by what was going on with Michala. At one point, it was thought that Michala might need a bone marrow transplant. Cheryl says Michala started to be fed through total parenteral nutrition (TPN) and then through a nasogastric (NG) tube. Cheryl says, “She ended up being inpatient for three months. It was hard because Logan was at home.” Home being about three-and-a-half hours drive-time away. Cheryl says she and her husband, Mike, would drive back and forth to touch base at home and check on Logan. Then, fortunately, Cheryl’s mom Martha began to drive Logan up from West Virginia on the weekends. At this point, the family did not yet know about The Ronald McDonald House. Cheryl remembers, “So when she brought Logan up we were like, ‘Oh my gosh! What are we going to do?!’ Logan didn’t want to go home because she missed us.” That’s when a nurse recommended putting in a referral to stay at The Ronald McDonald House. Cheryl says it was the answer they looking for to keep Logan close. “So she could come and visit and we could take turns getting sleep because we were absolutely EXHAUSTED.”
“When we first arrived, I was just kind of nervous because we hadn’t slept and didn’t know what to expect,” Cheryl recalls of coming to the House for the first time. “I was just like WOW!” she exclaims of having settled in the house the first night. “Everybody was so kind and nice and anything we needed was here.” And since then, she says seeing volunteers and staff at the house on repeat visits is so very reassuring after being weary from the road. “We have just come to know these familiar faces,” she adds. It’s like seeing a second family. It makes it a lot easier knowing that we have a place like this to come to. It’s stressful enough to drive – to be away from home for four days anyhow – but then to come here and be able to BREATH, you don’t have to worry.”
To emphasize that point, Cheryl brings up a very dark part of this eight-year journey. About half way through it, four years ago, her husband Mike suffered a massive heart attack in his sleep. He didn’t survive the attack. Cheryl was, what many of us might call, a wreck at that point. It’s tough for many of us to think of losing the co-parent, or co-pilot, in the middle of a tough journey. But Cheryl was able to get right back on the road, thanks to the help of her own mother. “My mom has stepped in as my helper. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to juggle all these appointments back and forth.” This day, with both Logan and Michala having visits to the hospital, was a perfect example. “I’ve had to switch back n’ forth today with the girls. Logan had some stuff this morning and Michala this afternoon. So she stayed here with Michala and then I went over there and then we came back and switched. But my mom has been here with me quite a bit.”
But, when Martha can’t travel with the girls, Cheryl says her ‘second family’ here at the House, steps right in with support. Once, last year, when Logan had a major surgery at the hospital, she was discharged, but still having pains. Without a car and without her mom, Cheryl had to bring Logan back to the House, navigating Logan’s wheelchair through the rain. “I cried trying to get her over here,” she remembers. “It was freezing cold outside, I had to put her in a wheelchair and wrap her in a blanket. She cried the whole way over here because it hurt. Every. Bump. Hurt.” And as any parent knows, when your child hurts, you hurt. When Cheryl and Logan came through the front doors at the House, Family Activities Manager Abigail Brummé and Lindsey Beggin, a Volunteer Coordinator at the time, were standing at the front desk and could see both were drenched, in pain, and in need of special love and care. Cheryl says, “We came in and I started crying again and Logan was crying and they just started saying, ‘hey it’s going to be okay’ and they helped us up to the room and got her her in bed… got her settled.” “Just knowing, ‘hey you’re not alone in this.’ That meant the world to me at that time because I felt so alone being here with her. I couldn’t do anything for her. It was like 10 degrees outside. It was awful in the middle of February last year. It was just horrible and I wanted to make her to feel better. As soon as we came through the door, though, support was waiting!”
To the staff and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House, this mom, who has been through so many “bumps in the road” with her daughters and her own mom, Cheryl has a message: “What you do – I don’t think you realize what a gift that you’re giving of your time and your energy and how much the people here really appreciate what you’re doing.” Her family’s trek up here may always be a long drive, but Cheryl says, once they arrive at what they consider a second home, The Ronald McDonald House, “there’s never a bump in the road!” She adds, that she hopes the women her daughters see volunteering and working in the house are an inspiration for the girls, should they enter motherhood themselves one day.