By Ashley Glinka
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.