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!
An open letter to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio:
I have had a dual career and when I retired from nursing, I was back into real estate full time. I was a NICU RN for 26 years. I now own my own Real Estate brokerage here in Mason County, West Virginia. I actually drove from here to Columbus my last six years before retiring and worked at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital NICU at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Ronald McDonald Charities has always held a special place for me because of my NICU background as an RN. I worked in Phoenix for 20 years and upon moving back here to be near family, but did my last 6 years in Columbus.
My brokerage was a center here in Mason County for donations over the holidays in honor of one of your guests Hannah and Jay Parrack and their son Sutton that had a lengthy stay at NCH. We spearheaded the effort and took donations from individuals, businesses, plus a few 4-H clubs and an elementary school. We advertised on social media and walked in the Christmas parade and handed out a 1000 flyers plus advertised about the donation drive at other holiday events.
Not just Sutton, but so many children in this area end up at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. It is rural here for the most part, so our sick babies and children almost always have to leave the area. Yes, we have Ronald McDonald Charities here in Huntington, but I know it’s even a greater burden when our families have to be in Columbus as it’s over 2 hours away. So many children in this area have benefited from your Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
We aimed to deliver everything to you in January, but the weather has not been cooperative to us! My secretary worked tirelessly and organized everything we delivered today. You should have seen our office the last few weeks of the year when donations were coming in!!!
Angie Cline Zimmerman, Broker/Owner, The Angie Zimmerman Realty Group
Thank you so much to Angie Cline Zimmerman, Broker/Owner, The Angie Zimmerman Realty Group and group, Point Pleasant Primary School and all the people who donated to Angie to support the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. I was truly amazed to walk in today and see how many items have been collected. I cannot wait for it to get delivered! We stayed at the [Ronald McDonald House in Columbus] for 90 straight days. To say RMHC is a blessing is an understatement. I’m so proud to be part of a community that is willing to support this cause! Thank you so much Angie for putting this all together to honor Sutton and any other local kids who have used the Ronald McDonald House! What a blessing this will be for all the families in need!!
Sutton wanted to help start carrying it all to the truck.
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!
The night Ripley was born, the doctor looked at us and said “This is going to go one of two ways. Ripley’s going to be born and I’m either going to hand him to you or he’s going to go straight to the NICU…and there’s no way to know which until he’s here with us.”
Sure enough, Ripley took the second route. He was born in Charleston, West Virginia after Audra was on four weeks of hospital bed rest, and immediately, what felt like 50 people crowded around him and I just caught myself holding my breath and saying “Please…please…please…”
Fast forward 24 hours and we are on our way to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, several hours behind the helicopter that had flown Ripley there from our home hospital in West Virginia. Ripley was born with what are called posterior urethral valves, which is just the medical phrase for “unable to release urine.” As a result of these valves, Ripley has hydronephrosis, which is a technical way to say that fluid (in his case, urine) damaged his kidneys. He’s currently on dialysis and will eventually need a transplant when he is older.
We are first time parents and the journey to bring Ripley into the world was long and hard. The thought of being separated from him for even a moment terrified us. This is where the Ronald McDonald house comes in. The Ronald McDonald house has allowed us to be at Ripley’s side every day, never missing a test, scan, first smile, or first cries.
When people think of the Ronald McDonald House, they often picture something akin to a hotel. A place to sleep, meals, and laundry services. But in my experience, those are the least of what the Ronald McDonald house provides. The core of every interaction from the moment you arrive is to create and facilitate a family.
From the moment we woke up and checked in, we were greeted by a team of people who sent us off with well wishes for our little one; hopeful that the day only brings good news. The moment we came back, we were again greeted by a team asking about our day. Ready to cheer us on through the big exciting milestones, and show compassion and empathy on our hardest days.
We are introduced and connected to the families around us allowing us to share and connect with those who truly understand the journey we are on.
But I think the transition that exemplifies best what the Ronald McDonald house provides is in the language you use. When you first arrive, you exclusively refer to it as “The Ronald McDonald house”. As time moves on, you use the phrase “going across the street”, but the real change comes when you start to refer to the Ronald McDonald house as home. We were there long enough for our phones to start calling the Ronald McDonald House “home” in Apple Maps when we were trying to get directions around a city we’d barely ever visited before. That is what the Ronald McDonald house has provided to our family.
A home, and we could not be more thankful.
Congratulations to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio board of trustees member, Dr. Cathann A. Kress for her election to chair of the board at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan. Kress is vice president for agricultural administration and dean of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. She was Outstanding Community Supporter of the year for RMHC of Central Ohio in 2019 and hosted the Dean’s Charity Steer Show in 2018, raising more than $150,000 to help keep families near their hospitalized children in Columbus.
“I’m deeply honored to take on this role of stewarding Mr. Kellogg’s legacy and his unwavering belief in people’s ability to solve the most pressing challenges facing children and families in their communities,” said Kress upon her election as chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Kress has been a board member of the Foundation since 2016. WKKF works across the country and internationally to help children facing difficult situations reach their full potential.
Incidentally, as part of a multi-year initiative, Kellogg’s Away From Home program has generously donated cereal trees and Kellogg’s cereal cups to more than 140 local Ronald McDonald House programs across the U.S., including ours. This evergreen program helps to ensure that families staying at local Ronald McDonald House programs have delicious grab-and-go breakfast options as they manage busy treatment schedules.
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.
Fran Green recently celebrated her 6th year anniversary as a volunteer who helps families make banners. We interviewed her for a vlog post to celebrate her August anniversary. The story caught the attention of NBC4’s Audrey Hasson, who spotlighted her in a recent report. Click the image above to watch this feature report focusing on Fran’s dedication to help families.
The Ronald McDonald House located in Columbus, Ohio will be adding more guest rooms, dining facilities, and community room – launching community campaign “A Million Reasons”
COLUMBUS, OHIO –October 1, 2021 – Since 1982, the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, Ohio has provided one million nights of rest for families of seriously ill, hospitalized children. In order to serve even more families at the House, RMHC of Central Ohio has embarked on the largest expansion project in our history – a transformational campaign to provide a million more nights of rest for families when they need it most. This project will include:
With the expansion RMHC will be equipped to serve an additional 2,000 families each year, increasing the families served annually to 6,500. Without the services RMHC provides, the families who rely on RMHC for housing and food will be forced to pay an average of $100 a night for local accommodations as well as an average of $20 per person, per day, to feed three meals. Therefore, the total annual savings to families after the expansion will be approximately $14,200,000.
“We are thrilled to embark on this new project and work with our community for A Million Reasons,” said Dee Anders, CEO and Executive Director for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. “This expansion will allow us to make a difference in the lives of so many more children and families, and we sincerely appreciate the support of our community. Without the generosity of Columbus and the Central Ohio region, we would not be able to accomplish this exciting growth.”
When a child is sick and needs specialty care in a hospital, the Ronald McDonald House is there to help keep families close. Located directly across the street from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, Ohio is one of the largest of its kind in the world. In fact, over 82,000 nights of rest are provided every year through the program.
Doctors and nurses take care of patients – RMHC takes care of the family. If it weren’t for the Ronald McDonald House and the services provided by the tireless staﬀ and volunteers, many families would simply not be able to aﬀord the necessary care for their children.
RMHC of Central Ohio currently serves more than 4,500 families annually whose children are treated at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, OhioHealth, Mount Carmel Health Systems, and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. As those tremendous hospital systems grow, so the need at RMHC grows. RMHC of Central Ohio is kicking off a Community Campaign titled A Million Reasons. The charity has provided about one million nights at the Ronald McDonald House since opening in 1982, and is expanding to continue to provide that service for the many families who need it. The Community Campaign is aiming to raise one million dollars of community support. Visit the Ronald McDonald House Community Campaign website: www.RMHC-CentralOhio.org/AMillionReasons