Eight-year-old Bianca of Monroe County, West Virginia loves to dance. Her mother, Cortney White, says Bianca is especially fond of ballet, jazz and hip-hop. When Bianca was diagnosed with Leukemia last October, Cortney says the news came as a sudden and complete shock. “I never realized the importance and significance of the small things that I took for granted until they were stripped from our life in one afternoon.” Even now, you might not realize the active gymnast and artist is in a battle against cancer. Cortney says of her daughter, “She has fought this horrible disease with beauty and grace. I feel so fortunate and blessed to spend every day with the happiest and the most positive person I know. She is always smiling and laughing. She brightens my days.”
Bianca and her family started on this medical journey when Bianca got her diagnosis at CAMC Women & Children’s Hospital in Charleston, West Virginia. Cortney says, “Immediately, I knew that I had to find her the best possible treatment and facility. I started researching and Nationwide Children’s Hospital was ranked #4 in the nation for children’s cancer hospitals.” Cortney says they felt fortunate to have such a world-renowned hospital in a neighboring state. She arranged for Bianca to be transferred the very next day after she was diagnosed.
Cortney says when they arrived in Columbus, she immediately felt better. “I knew this was where we needed to be.” It was from a hospital social worker that Cortney found out about the Ronald McDonald House. She says she wasn’t familiar with RMHC, but when she learned about the House across the street from the hospital, she was relieved. “Hearing that Bianca and I would have a place to call home during treatment gave me hope,” she exclaimed. “I had no idea such facilities existed. It still seems unreal to me that the generosity of volunteers and donors have made it possible for my family to stay close next door to the hospital, while receiving treatment.”
Though Bianca’s grandmother, her father, and brother have all stayed at the House at different times with Bianca since they arrived last fall, the coronavirus forced the House to make limitations on the number of guests who could stay beginning in March. Cortney admits it’s been hard leaving Bianca’s six-year-old brother Brandon back on the family’s farm for weeks on end. She knows it’s also been a challenge for Bianca to be away from her home, family, and friends for great lengths of time. But, she adds, “The Ronald McDonald House has given us the opportunity to establish a home away from home. We Facetime, text, and Bianca loves SnapChat to communicate with her family and close friends daily.” Cortney appreciates the measures the House has taken to keep everyone safe during these unprecedented times. “Everyone is wearing a mask and performing social distancing to keep everyone safe during this pandemic. The Ronald McDonald House is following the same protocol as Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which makes me feel like I’m bringing my daughter into a safe environment.”
Cortney believes staying at the House has had an impact on Bianca’s treatment too. “Staying here, at the Ronald McDonald House, has helped my daughter receive the best of care. She goes to the hospital Monday thru Friday for infusion chemotherapy.” “Without the House,” Cortney says, “…our journey, I’m sure, would have been a lot different. I am forever grateful and thankful that we are here, and my daughter is receiving the best care possible. It is truly been a blessing.”
Though she and her daughter are here on a health journey that’s been tough, Cortney points out that her family is grateful for having enjoyed some special, pleasant memories while staying at the House. “During Christmas, Bianca enjoyed seeing the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who!” Cortney continues, “We love seeing the different decorations on display during the holidays… The atmosphere is one of joy and kindness here… it’s a beautiful thing to witness.”
What’s next? Cortney answers, “Our dream is for Bianca to be completely healed.” Cortney explains, “She looks forward to her last day of chemo when she can ring the bell and celebrate her victory. We look forward to the day that she can go back to living the life she once did. I want to see her in school with her classmates, take her to dance class and gymnastics. I want her to sleep in her bed at night, exchange Valentines with her friends, participate in the Christmas play at church, and enjoy her animals on the farm.”
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio is committed to the health and well being of our community. Our team is working diligently to address concerns with the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). In an effort to maintain the safety of our community, we have suspended non-essential volunteer groups. In addition, many meal groups have cancelled or rescheduled for a later date. As you know, the Ronald McDonald House and Ronald McDonald Family Room are completely dependent upon volunteerism to operate.
In these challenging times, we are fortunate to have many people asking how they can help us at RMHC. If you are interested in helping us provide meals to guests of the Ronald McDonald House, please consider making a donation. To learn more about supporting the meal program, called Team Cuisine, please email Katherine.Becker@RMHC-CentralOhio.org. To make a financial donation to support our operations, please visit rmhc-centralohio.org/donation-form/.
In addition, RMHC of Central Ohio has postponed our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and Handbag HULLABALOO! Dublin in compliance with Governor DeWine’s Executive Order. We will be working with our event committees to announce the rescheduled dates for those events as they become available.
Please know that we sincerely appreciate the support of our community, and look forward to the day that we can open our doors once again to volunteer groups.
RMHC of Central Ohio
Thinking of the best way to describe what the Ronald McDonald House provides families in one word can only be summed up as “relief”. Our family first became familiar with the Ronald McDonald House Charities when our twins, Grayson and Annalise, were born prematurely at 33 weeks exactly. We live in Michigan and the twins were born at Toledo Children’s Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. At the time of their unexpected birth we also had a 2-year-old daughter. One of the NICU nurses brought in an application for their Ronald McDonald House as a place for my husband and our oldest daughter, Annabella, to stay. As parents juggling the roller coaster of the NICU along with trying to maintain a sense of normal for our oldest daughter we were grateful to have this bright colorful place to just be with her. Little did we know at the time how big a part the Ronald McDonald House Charities would be in our lives.
Grayson and Annalise had a rocky first year of life with multiple hospital stays in our local children’s hospital; there was a constant back and forth between the twins of high fevers over 105 for 6-10 days, rashes, joint pain, inflammation, headaches, and poor growth. We had exhausted our local resources and our pediatrician recommended going to Nationwide Children’s Hospital for a 2nd opinion and the ability to see more extensive specialist. Our first appointment was shortly after the twins 1st birthday with Oncology/Hematology and they began to put the puzzle pieces together. Unlike most with their disease, a rare Autoinflammatory disease, we were lucky that our twins were diagnosed early at 18 months and began a lifelong treatment to minimize damage. We were travelling from Michigan to Columbus, Ohio sometimes weekly that first year as everything was sorted out. The trip for us is usually around 7 hours round trip which with small children especially when they were “flaring” is miserable for all involved. Our specialist tried to coordinate the twin’s appointments as much as possible but there were still times when we had a test on Monday and then see a specialist on a Wednesday or times when only one was admitted.
It is during these moments when we are trying to figure out how to juggle whether we should drive back and forth, get a hotel, what to do with the “healthy” siblings, that the comfort and relief of the Ronald McDonald House is indescribable. Instead of Nationwide Hospital being a place our children dread they love going “home” to see their family at the House. The house has taken the burden of worrying about mounting travel expenses off of our shoulders, the worry about packing enough to entertain two toddlers, where to go to eat, and how I am going to do laundry is erased because the house has a solution for all of that. Our family has made countless memories within the walls of the house over the past 2 years. This past trip in December was one where both twins have been very stable for the past month; seeing them climb the tree house, run around the playroom, and fined joy in the Christmas decorations of a place that truly feels as if it has some magic is something we will always cherish. As we watched them just enjoy being 3 year old’s my husband and I were discussing those many times that they didn’t have the energy to play, they physically couldn’t climb the tree house because it was too painful, and we spent hours rocking them in our room because of pain.
As parents of chronically ill children we cannot say thank you enough for all that you provide. You may not see it but the relief that this house brings to families is innumerable. In a world where our children are fighting a battle that nobody should endure you provide those much needed moments of hope, the laughter amongst tears, sweet I love you between families, and those moments where mom and dad can breath a sigh of relief and know that they are in a place where it is ok to take a deep breath and only worry about the most important thing, their family, because their family in the house will take care of everything else.
Thank you so much to everybody who tirelessly supports the Ronald McDonald Charities. Your support brings hope to families like ours.
This is a story that means so much to us here at the Ronald McDonald House this season. Knox Vehrs is home for the holidays after 423 days at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and his family stayed with us for that first year and two months of his life. Recently, his family returned from their home in Wyandot County to drop off a check for $8,400. The donation was for their stay and to pay it forward for future families needing to stay here. But what makes this story even sweeter is how his 9-yr-old cousin Paige (pictured), a member of #4h in Wyandott County, sold her calf and donated the proceeds to Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio! The community was so moved and inspired by her act of generosity, they added to the donation for a total of $4,577❗️That’s nearly $13,000 from the two families and the community altogether. Thank you. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to both families and your supporters!
For 16-year-old Laci, her medical journey began with back pain that wouldn’t go away. Then an ankle that didn’t appear broken, but she still felt the pain of a badly damaged ankle. Doctors back home in Huntington, West Virginia recommended Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus to find the cause of her pain. This would become a tough journey in more ways than one. It turned out Laci had a connective tissue disorder and a dysfunction of her central nervous system. With both diagnoses, bumps in the road during the trip to Columbus literally caused pain to flare up along the way. What’s worse, is Laci’s family would find themselves making the trip for weekly appointments. Click the image below to hear more from Laci’s mom, Crystal, and how thankful they are for the Ronald McDonald House.
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.