The Joliff Family Story

Shown here, l to r, Cayden, Kevin, Gretchen, and Riley.
The Joliff Family story, written by Gretchen Joliff, mother of Cayden Joliff:
“839 days. That is how many nights our family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House of Columbus while our son, Cayden, received life-saving medical attention.
Our journey started in November 2014 when we went for our twenty-week anatomy scan. After the scan was complete the doctor came in and told us that our son had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, which means he has a hole in the muscle under his lungs that is responsible for breathing.
We were sent to Columbus the following week and the diagnosis was confirmed. He was given less than a five percent chance of survival. We left the appointment beside ourselves and wondered how we were going to make it through the next four months knowing that he was so safe inside, but wouldn’t be able to breathe on his own when he was born.
March 22nd came quickly. We were to check in at the Ronald McDonald House the night before my induction. When we arrived, we were greeted immediately upon arrival, checked in, and given a tour of the house. We were so impressed. There was a huge kitchen that people came to cook dinner every evening and most days they would have lunch and sometimes even breakfast. Our room, Room 122, was so clean and comfortable. It had everything we needed to get us started on our journey. At that point, we had just brought a couple of bags not knowing if we would be checking out the following day, if he didn’t make it, or if we would be there longer.
The next morning we woke early and headed to the hospital where Cayden was born on March 23rd at 9:10 P.M. Cayden was immediately intubated because he needed oxygen and ten minutes later he was rushed to the NICU.  Soon after, they wheeled me in to the NICU to see him before he and my husband, Kevin, were taken by ambulance to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Around five o’clock the next morning I was awoken by Kevin calling to tell me that Cayden was not doing well; they were putting him on ECMO, a life-saving machine that mimics the function of the heart and lungs, and I needed to try to get myself discharged as soon as possible.
The doctor told us that it would be very touch and go and it was. He was on ECMO for 11 days, taken off and then had to go back on less than 24 hours later. His body needed the rest. We were not able to hold Cayden for the first 28 days of his life. For only being two and a half he has gone through multiple surgeries, procedures, and is on tons of medication. On July 10, 2017, after two years and almost 4 months in the hospital, we were finally able to bring him home.
During all of this, we were blessed to be able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. Every night we had a place to lay our heads, take a hot shower, and so much more.  I cannot begin to tell you all the amenities that are there to make you feel at home. From the kitchen and laundry facilities to game rooms and the library, our family had space to come together during this difficult time. Kevin’s daughter, Riley, would come down on the weekends and have a blast playing throughout the house. We were close to the hospital, but still able to spend some one-on-one time with Riley as a family.
This journey can be lonely and obviously very hard. The staff and volunteers at the house are always there to help you with anything you may need, even if it is a shoulder to cry on. There have been times when they have watched us take off in a sprint across the street when Cayden was coding and not breathing. When we would get back, they would ask me how he was and what they could do to help us.
But most important of all, Room 122 was 550 steps from our room to Cayden’s room in the NICU. We could make it over there in an emergency in less than 6 minutes. I know this because we had to rush there many times. Without the Ronald McDonald House we would have had to commute or get a hotel room, with both options causing us to miss out on precious time with our son. I have added up the cost and there is no way we could have afforded it. We were so blessed to call the Ronald McDonald House our home for 839 days.
It takes $100 to give one family a night’s rest at RMH. Every donation makes a huge difference for families like us. Cayden still has a long road ahead of him as he continues to grow stronger and healthier, and therefore we know the reality of our situation is, we will be back and know that the Ronald McDonald House will be there waiting for us. Please consider making a gift to the Ronald McDonald House this holiday season to support families like ours in need of a place to call home while we care for our children.”