Our daughter, Ashlee, and her husband, Jacob, lived in Florida and were visiting Ohio the last weekend of May 2021 for a bachelorette/bachelor weekend at Hocking Hills to celebrate our youngest daughter’s upcoming wedding that August. Ashlee was 31 weeks into her pregnancy and developed severe preeclampsia. She was triaged in Hocking Valley Community Hospital, then transported by ambulance to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital unit at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital where the medical team helped her deliver their first child, Gabriel. Our family went into support mode for Ashlee, Jacob and Gabriel as they were more than 1,000 miles from home and without anything except what they had packed for their vacation week.
Ashlee, Jacob, and two of our family members who served as their NICU additional support team used the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Riverside Hospital as a place to rest, eat, and refocus during the seven weeks that Gabriel was in the NICU. Ashlee and Jacob also were blessed with the opportunity to live at The Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, which gave them a beautiful and supportive place to live while Jacob and Ashlee were learning to parent a son in the NICU and who both were unable to work because they were so far from home.
As Ashlee’s mom, I was the visitor who was able to be their support person from The Ronald McDonald House. During this time of Covid-19, just one visitor per family was allowed in the Ronald McDonald Family Room, so I was also able to visit them at the hospital and retreat to the family room where I was close by when they needed me. I saw firsthand how the staff and physical space of both the Ronald McDonald House and the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Riverside Hospital impacted the ability of Ashlee and Jacob to navigate the deep challenges they faced during those first seven weeks of Gabriel’s life. As a pastor who has journeyed with people in many different hospitals, I can say that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House and the Ronald McDonald House Family Room at Riverside Hospital are two of the biggest gifts I have ever seen for families who are in some of the most emotionally and physically overwhelming days of their lives.
Gabriel will celebrate his first birthday at the end of this month and we are forever grateful for the gift you gave our family of support, space, and help during his first weeks of life. Thank you for your wisdom, vision, teamwork, commitment, and love for our family and thousands of others!
As the 40th anniversary of the Ronald McDonald House is nearing, we wanted to hear some family’s thoughts on the new expansion and what they look forward to in it. Tara Germann has been staying at the house on and off for 5 years with her daughter Sofia. The first impression Tara had on the expansion was the extra 80 rooms it is going to provide. She said that she looks forward to the extra space “so more families get the opportunity to stay at the house and fewer families to be put on the waitlist.” She was put on it once before and she says it’s a tense feeling, saying “It causes more anxiety as you wonder whether or not you know where you will be staying.” She points out many don’t even have the funds to pay for a hotel for one night while waiting to come off the list. “Having this safe space is monumental when your child is at the hospital,” she adds. “Due to being able to come to the house for an hour during the day and take a quick break from the hospital, regroup and go back throughout the day is nice. It also helps us not have wear and tear on the car driving an hour plus away each day back and forth.” I asked her about the expanded kitchens and dining spaces and she said she looks forward to being able to continue to come here and eat throughout the day when she takes a quick break from the hospital environment, “which is a great relief knowing you have a fresh meal daily!” Lastly, I asked what her favorite part of the new expansion will be and she said the 80 rooms, “and more things for her daughter to do as she uses the community rooms a lot for playing games and being able to get her out of the room structure and get her into something else that is not at the hospital, and help distract her.”
Brittany Newman has been staying at the house since June of last year with her daughter Kenzley. Kenzley is currently on another wait list. She’s waiting on a new heart from a matching donor. Her first impression of the new expansion is excitement for families to avoid being on a wait list for a room. She says that she has not been “waitlisted” before, which has allowed her to be with her daughter more than she would be able to if she was put on one. A daily drive from work to Columbus and staying with her daughter until she goes asleep around 11 would make it nearly impossible to see her daughter multiple days in a row. She thinks that the additional rooms will help all families, even ones who she knows personally who have been put on a waitlist before. The idea that they would no longer have that problem is beyond words for Brittany. I asked her about the expanded kitchens and dining spaces and she said she looks forward to being able to use the new personal kitchens with her kids on the weekend to make dinner. The specialty rooms are important to her family as it helps them have an outlet for a normal day so that they are not just sitting in a normal hospital room. She said that their favorite part of the expansion will be “having more green space and open areas as it helps it feel more like home.”
Paxtyn was born with a rare genetic condition called Apert Syndrome which affects about 59 babies a year. It causes early fusion is the sutures in the skull, webbed fingers and toes which have no joints, cloth soft palate, condensed nasal passages and eye sockets which causes the eyes to bulge and breathing difficulties such as sleep apnea.
We did not have a diagnosis before birth, we spent about a month in the NICU with her on oxygen and many tests being done. We have had many, many hospital stays and surgeries at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Specifically, Paxtyn has had 3 major head surgeries, 3 surgeries on each hand, a surgery on each foot, a cleft palate repair, ear tubes inserted, adenoids removed, treatment for thinning of the tissue in the sinus area and a skin graft.
We still have a lot of surgeries coming in the future. Despite everything Paxtyn has been through and all the delays, she’s still our spunky, wild, full-of-attitude two-year-old. She is adored by her siblings Prestyn, Paisley and Peyton. Paxtyn loves baby dolls and CocoMelon and playing outside like any other kid. She’s definitely defeated all the odds. Paxtyn is so loved by her entire family.
“The best view comes after the hardest climb”
Our pregnancy journey has been one filled with ups and downs, but also so much love, support from others, miracles, and lots of grace! We are so grateful to countless people who have walked with us through our journey, and now the Ronald McDonald House is high up on that list! Below is our backstory, how Ronald McDonald has become home this past month, and what our baby girl Grace has been through to become 1 month old this March 2nd, 2022!
Joel and I found each other later in life (late 30s). Before we met, we had both accepted the fact we might never have a spouse and kids, even though we desired them. We met in 2019 and got married 9 months later, where I moved to Willard, 2 hours north of Columbus. We started trying to have kids a year later. Early 2021 we found out we were highly unlikely to be able to get pregnant. We were sad about that, but also knew there were other options and ultimately, trusted God with whatever He had in store. We began working with a fertility clinic, and thankfully were able to get pregnant! We were shocked and excited at our 5 1/2 week check-up to find out we were pregnant with identical twins too! I had always kind of wanted twins 🙂 We decided to name them Grace and Hope if they were girls. We came back to the fertility clinic at 7 weeks to find out one of them didn’t have a heartbeat. We were heartbroken and mourned that loss, but also thankful that one of them was still alive. We decided to name the living baby Grace, as we “Hoped” for twins, but by God’s “Grace”, we still had one living baby. At our 9 week check-up with OSU Maternal Fetal Medicine, we found out we had a very rare thing called TRAP Sequence (I’ve heard it happens in about 1 in 30,000 pregnancies!). TRAP is where one twin is viable, one isn’t, but the alive one is actually pumping blood into the other twin as well. This causes the “acardiac” (without a heart) twin to still grow, even though it doesn’t have a heart, organs, or upper body, and can’t live. We started driving to OSU and Cincinnati alternating weeks for check-ups. We were warned that TRAP puts a lot of strain on the heart of our living twin (Grace), so if there were signs of heart failure, or if the acardiac twin got too big (60% or more the size of the living twin), then they would go in for surgery to cut off the blood flow.
We knew things were high risk, and I had been on modified bedrest since early in our pregnancy. The acardiac twin stayed under 50% the size of Grace for most of the time, then I missed one check-up due to coming down with covid-19, and the acardiac twin grew in leaps and bounds! It went from 36% the size to 89% the size in less than 10 days. We needed to have surgery immediately. My husband Joel got covid from me, so he couldn’t be there when I went in for surgery, but thankfully it was a success. The Doctors were able to stop the blood flow, but had warned us that it put me at risk of preterm delivery. I started having contractions following the surgery, but they were able to stop them. Over the next 2 months, we kept monitoring things, and then had to rush to the hospital end of January wondering if something was wrong. They found that my water had indeed broken (a common complication of that surgery), and I needed to stay in the hospital till we gave birth.
We hoped our little Grace would stay in there till 34 weeks, as that’s a huge milestone to give a better chance for being healthy, but she decided she wanted to come earlier! Thankfully I had been in the hospital for 5 days already, and was able to get the lung steroid shots and brain medicine to help hers develop more. We found out during that time that once I was discharged from the hospital, we wouldn’t be able to be with Grace 24/7, and that realization made me really sad. Joel and I weren’t sure what we’d do. I went into labor on Tuesday February 1st, and she joined us Wednesday evening, February 2nd! They were guessing she’d be under 2 pounds, which my brain couldn’t even fathom! She came out at 1lb 14oz! They brought her over to me for a few seconds with blankets on, then whisked her away to the NICU. Over the next 2 days as I recovered, a social worker let us know about the Ronald McDonald House as an option, since we live 2 hours away. We had heard of it before, but hadn’t known much about it. We decided that would be the best option to be able to be with Grace as much as we possibly could.
Over this past month we have been blown away with the Ronald McDonald House, and all that it offers, and how many people and organizations help make it possible! Everyone who works here or who has volunteered here has been so welcoming and friendly. My mind is blown by all of the donations given to help Ronald McDonald House run. We had no idea what an incredible gift this place is, helping countless families like us, who are going through challenging health circumstances! We received several gifts when we arrived, which just filled us with love. We can’t wait to welcome Grace home in a few months with these gifts, and share the story of how the Ronald McDonald House became our home when she was first born.
This new home has gone above and beyond to make sure we have all of our needs met! I didn’t have a breast pump yet, and they have rooms specifically for that. They have fridges and freezers, so I can store my milk there, as well as personal food we get. They also provide community food, including snacks and full blown meals. Being able to grab breakfast quickly before running to the hospital, and being able to come home after a long day at the NICU to a home cooked meal by volunteers is amazing. We didn’t have much time to pack before we came to Columbus, so being able to do laundry here has allowed us to go a month with our limited clothes! They also have many wonderful community areas! Being able to take a little time to relax and play pinball, hockey, or pacman during loads of laundry has been a great way to bond and relax with my husband. There’s a shuttle that makes it easy to get to either Children’s or OSU, so if my husband has to run back home for work for a day, I can go see my baby without a car!
There is so much more Ronald McDonald has to offer that I couldn’t come close to describing it all. We are so incredibly grateful for the generosity of so many to make this place possible. I know countless other families have also been so blessed by this place. We are excited to celebrate both the 40th birthday of the Ronald McDonald House, and Grace’s 1st month of birth in March! This home will always have a special place in our hearts, as it has helped us through a challenging, but also very sweet time with our new baby girl!
My name is Bryana Wallace, I am 18 years old, and I am currently a sophomore in the nursing program at Ohio University. All throughout high school, I participated in competitive and school cheerleading as well as cross country. In January 2019, I was throwing my flyer around at competitive cheer practice, when she came down and elbowed me in the neck causing swelling. We thought nothing of it. I sat out that week until the swelling went down. After the swelling went down there was a lump right above my collarbone. For months we thought it was nothing, I had an ultrasound, and everything seemed fine. I was told it was just an internal bruise and it would go away on its own. Many months went by, and the lump was not getting smaller, some days it even looked bigger. A biopsy was then taken and on August 15th, 2019, I was told I had stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The week of August 19th, 2019, I had many scans and appointments with the doctor only to hear I would be starting Chemo treatments August 23rd. I attended the first day of my junior year and on the second day of school I started chemotherapy. After treatments began, I could not go to school. I missed half of my junior year but thanks to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Ohio State University and Alexander High School, I was able to get a robot that I could connect to from home so that I could be in classes.
The nurses and doctors at NCH were amazing. They made me feel as at home as possible. I might have been receiving chemo and going through the hardest parts in my life, but I will never forget the amount of comfort I felt at NCH. The nurses made a big impact on me personally. I knew I always wanted to be a nurse, but I wasn’t quite sure just what kind of nursing I wanted to do. It wasn’t until a nurse came in who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s at the age of 16. She told me her story and to see where she was now, inspired me. It made me realize that I wanted to help other children and be able to share my story as a Pediatric Oncology Nurse.
The Ronald McDonald House will forever have a special place in the hearts of me and my family. On the eighth day of my chemo schedule, like clock-work, I would get a fever about 4 hours after treatment. I lived about 2 hours away from NCH so whenever I got a fever, I was sent to my local ER, then was taken to NCH by an ambulance. After that first ride in an ambulance, we knew something needed to change. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to stay at the Ronald McDonald House with my family. After staying that first night, my family and I made it a point to stay there after day eight of each cycle, knowing what was coming. The workers – including volunteers – at the Ronald McDonald House were the sweetest people with the biggest hearts. They made sure everyone had what was needed, snacks were provided all day, and they arranged for people to come in to make food for the families staying there, including mine. I was not able to stay an entire night at the House, except for the last cycle of treatments. That’s because after getting a fever, I would be admitted, of course. However, whenever I had to go to the ER, the workers at Ronald McDonald would allow us to keep our bags in the room until we had time to go back over and process our check out.
The Ronald McDonald house helped relieve a burden for my family by providing all of the comforts of home and knowing we were right across the street from the hospital when I would get sick. 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 them. I can never thank the Ronald McDonald house enough for not only me but all of the other families that have stayed, are staying there now, or ever will stay there in the future as the House gets bigger.
In 2020, I spoke at the Bobcathon dance marathon and shared my story. After hearing that they raised money for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, I knew this would be a great opportunity to give back. I am currently the Director of Fundraising for the student group. The biggest event I planned was a 5k. We ended up raising over $1,500 for the Ronald McDonald House! I have learned so much being a part of Bobcathon. Being able to raise money for such a great place has been amazing. RMHC helped not only my family but thousands of families as they go through some of the hardest journeys in their lives.
To all of the supporters and potential sponsors of this year’s Bobcathon, I cannot begin to thank everyone enough. Without the support of many people around not only the Athens community but all over, we would not have been able to make this all possible to help the House. Knowing that so many people have already donated to the Ronald McDonald House hits really close to home, especially in my family. No family should have to fight their battles alone!
It’s a Saturday here at the Ronald McDonald House and I stepped away from my baby’s hospital bedside to do a quick load of laundry and the RMH team just announced over the intercom that lunch was ready for families in the kitchen. An immediate smile popped up on my face and my heart filled with gratitude knowing my husband and I have a “home away from home” when we are more than 2,400 miles away. Enjoying a home cooked meal is just one of the comforts of home we are thankful to enjoy during our stay.
As first time parents, we were elated to welcome a baby boy into our family on August 6th, 2020. As many new moms do, I had read so many blogs and books about caring for a newborn and had learned knowledge on what to expect and because of the pandemic, we took an online birthing class. But nothing prepared my husband and me for learning our son was born with a rare colorectal defect that was discovered when he was 36 hours young after he became ill in the hospital. At 39 hours young, he was transferred to another local hospital with a level III NICU. He had his first surgery and spent six days in the NICU. We learned he would require two additional surgeries during his first year to correct his congenital colorectal defect. We didn’t learn until Malakai was six months old that he is classified with VACTERL association, having three of the seven birth defects listed.
After months of prayer and my time to return to work approaching, my husband and I made the decision to remain home for the last two surgeries. Our son’s second surgery at four months old went without a hiccup and he recovered very well. However, his third and final surgery at seven months old unfortunately was not successful and we along with the children’s hospital back home discovered just how medically complex our son was. After almost losing him to sepsis, MOD, and compartment syndrome, we desperately needed a colorectal specialist. After a miraculous connection, we received a call from a dear mama who referred us to her youngest son’s doctor who leads the colorectal center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Within 48 hours, our son was accepted as a patient. On April 17th, we were medevacked from Central California to NCH.
Our son is now receiving expert care from one of the world’s leading colorectal surgeons and we continue to learn about his rare condition from the entire medical team. Every single day, Malakai is getting stronger and improving. He has three procedures weekly to gradually restore his health. We are literally weeks away from being able to bring our baby boy “home” to the RMH to continue his recovery so we can learn how to care for him medically with experts across the street before he is finally discharged — all in preparation to train us as parents to care for his new medical needs at home. We will recover for 4-6 months back home and will return for round two of reconstructive surgeries. Malakai’s plan of reconstruction will possibly go into his 2nd and 3rd birthdays.
At the Ronald McDonald House, we don’t have to worry about housing, meals, and laundry. My husband can continue to work remotely in a quiet space knowing he’s minutes away from our son. RMH really has become our home away from home. We’ve met families from all across the nation. We’ve shed tears here with other mamas and prayed for each other’s children. We’ve met families that “get us” because they have similar journeys with their child’s rare colorectal birth defects. We’ve sat with Ms. Fran as she helped us make an adorable banner to hang on our baby’s hospital door and she kindly volunteered to help us make birthday decorations to celebrate his upcoming first birthday. We’ve cheered on the children who learned how to cook delicious meals for us during their RMH Summer Culinary Camp. And we’ve walked the gardens and play area just to escape the hospital room to capture a few breaths of fresh air.
All of these experiences bring a huge smile to my face! My heart is filled with joy knowing that our son, Malakai, will be able to experience RMH for years to come when we travel across the country for his future reconstructive surgeries and follow up care. We look forward to future stays and seeing familiar faces when we return. We’re excited to see the continued growth and impact RMH makes on families near and far.
The impact and services the Ronald McDonald House is able to provide are made possible by generous contributors like you. It is your support that allows my family and families like mine, to have a “home away from home.” We are truly grateful for everything the Ronald McDonald House has done to support us on our journey and we will forever be grateful for the opportunity to return “home” for our future hospital stays with our son. Thank you for your support to help families like ours.
With grateful hearts,
Valerie, Patrick & Malakai Kim
Sara & Andrew are parents of a little girl getting care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Their daughter, Zia, was born with several medical issues, so they’ve stayed at the Ronald McDonald House several times since October of 2020, during the height of the pandemic. The Coshocton, Ohio couple is so grateful for being able to stay just 500 steps from their daughter’s room all this time, that they started a fundraiser this Giving Tuesday with funds going directly to RMHC of Central Ohio. While staying in the House this holiday season, they told us what the House means to them. Click the image below to hear from Sara about the family’s journey. If you would like to contribute to the family’s fundraising efforts, click the donation button below to be taken to our donation page and type “ZIA” under the Tribute section after checking the box letting us know you’re supporting this family.
“We didn’t have any warning that I was going into labor it just happened, so we were just so in love with her when we saw her we didn’t have time to be scared about her journey ahead,” said Katie, a new mom staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus from Cambridge, Ohio.
Morgan was born at twenty-three months and two weeks gestation and, since the moment she entered this world five months ago, she’s been in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. First at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, where she was born, then a week later at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital NICU. A social worker at Riverside requested a room for Morgan’s mom and dad, Katie and Devin, at the Ronald McDonald House across the street from the hospital where Morgan was getting care. Katie was discharged from Riverside while Morgan transported to the children’s hospital for tests and where her care would continue. “It was a very rough day,” Katie recalls. “We had just left her for the first time – she was still at Riverside – and her doctor called us to tell us about her brain bleed which was unexpected on our end. So honestly, we didn’t look at much of the house or remember much other than that call and headed straight back to the hospital.”
Now, Morgan has been seeing a lot of medical teams while in the hospital. Katie praised the hospital experts helping her grow, listing them off. “She has her neonatologists and nurse practitioners that see her every day, neurosurgery – who now check on her monthly for her grade 4 brain bleed, which has been stable – and an intestinal support team, who follow her for her bowel. She has had her normal occupational/physical therapist, music therapy, massage therapy…”
It takes a lot of work by a lot of professionals to keep a baby alive initially, then more to help that baby progress day by day. While the doctors & nurses at the hospital work to get Morgan to the point where she can leave the hospital, her parents Katie & Devin rearranged their lives to support her through virtually every waking moment of their lives. A lifestyle change Katie says couldn’t be done without being able to stay across the street at the Ronald McDonald House. “It allows us to be at her bedside from early in the morning until late at night to be there to take care of her as much as we can and also feel comfortable being close enough to get some sleep at night.”
Katie added that it’s tough to be away from her daughter as she struggles with medical issues, so being just a few hundred step from her room makes all the difference. “It has been such a blessing! We didn’t have time to think about where we’d be staying it all happened so fast, let alone resources to pay a hotel or rent a place to stay up here as long as we have been. I’ve never left since she’s been born and my husband went back to work after 6 weeks. I am so happy that I am just right across the street from her. I’m not someone who can sleep in the hospital, so it is a place for me to go and recharge for a little bit before I head back over to spend time with our daughter. They provide food so we didn’t have to waste time at first going to the store when all that we wanted to do was be with our daughter. Being able to do laundry has been fantastic as well I can’t tell you what we’d do without the laundry being available. We don’t spend much time at the house but it is nice that we have somewhere to go for a break but also not be too far for comfort from our daughter.”
Katie & Devin are looking forward to taking their daughter back home to Cambridge, Ohio. But, during this month of gratitude, they want to make sure donors of money & time to the House know they are thankful for these investments in the future of their family an so many others. “It helps to take extra stress off us during the most stressful time of our lives and lets us focus on our daughter and her healing and development. I don’t think I can truly put into words all the blessings this house has meant to us. They were able to get us in so quickly and easily we truly could just focus on our daughter and not worry about anything else. All the staff and volunteers are always friendly! It’s so refreshing to encounter friendly faces all the time here.”
Friendly faces she hopes to see again, even after her daughter’s journey leads them all back home.
Becket was born in a small Indiana town near the Illinois border. He was found to have a heart murmur and taken to an Indianapolis hospital for treatment. Doctors there couldn’t get to the root of the problem, even after surgery and recommended his parents take him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Here, they talk about what they’ve gone through with their young son and their experience with our Ronald McDonald House.
The following is a profile from Nationwide Children’s Hospital spotlighting 13-year-old Andy, one of its Patient Champions for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon next month. Andy and his mom, Carolina, have been coming to our Ronald McDonald House for almost half of his years on earth. While staying at the House, he became a Columbus Blue Jackets fan after catching a few games thanks to free tickets donated by The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation to the House for families staying with us.
Andy was born via C-Section at 35 weeks. From the moment he was born, he had trouble eating and gaining weight. When Andy turned two, he was diagnosed with Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
After many years of fighting and encountering problems due to his oral aversion, his doctors decided on the implantation of a Gastrostomy button to help maintain his nutrition.
In 2016, Andy was diagnosed with severe Gastroparesis. His doctors decided to change his Gastrostomy tube to a Gastro-Jejunal tube, which then prevented him from eating by mouth. After this diagnosis, his local Gastroenterologist in Oklahoma referred him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Andy and his family travelled from their home in Oklahoma to Columbus where they met with his new physicians and doctors. The team of doctors ran an assortment of tests and the results indicated that Andy was a candidate for the gastric pacemaker. Andy had the pacemaker implanted in March of 2018 and his life changed drastically for the better.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital is proud to treat children in 49 U.S. states and 54 foreign countries. Andy and his family have been traveling to Columbus almost monthly for regular checkups with his doctors. “This hospital means hope and for us, and peace of mind that our son is under the best medical care. We are truly grateful for the medical team at Nationwide Children’s Hospital,” says Carolina, Andy’s mother.
Andy is a huge fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets and NASCAR! He also enjoys playing with his friends, reading books and attending school. He loves to play video games and basketball.
Andy is travelling the distance to get the care he needs.