By Abigail Brumme
“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” – Tom Bodett
As the summer ends and back to school season begins, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio is serving as a home-away-from-home for many families whose focus is not back to school, but instead the well-being of their seriously ill child. RMHC of Central Ohio serves thousands of families each year that are being given their most difficult test yet.
As you celebrate the end of summer and prepare for the many lessons and tests during the back to school season, please consider supporting our families of seriously ill children that are being put through a different type of test this school season. Your donation will help to provide a comforting place to sleep, home-cooked meals, activities for our families to spend time together, and a place of hope. To donate, simply click here to support our families. Thank you for supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
By Vicki Chappelear
A bright-eyed four-year-old, little girl walked into my office and gave me a big smile. She looked me straight in the eye, placed her hands on her little head and exclaimed, “I don’t have any hair!” She said it as if I didn’t know, but I did know. Her story is much like that of many of the kids I see daily.
I have the privilege of working with the families of kids who are pretty sick. I have seen all types of illness come into my office—cancer, spina bifida, heart issues or an illness yet to be diagnosed—you name it, chances are good I’ve have met a family dealing with it.
There is something that stands out to me about these kids—their resilient attitude. They do not sit around and feel sorry for themselves. I’ve actually witnessed five and six year olds comforting each other and having conversations about medical procedures I do not understand. Many of these little ones don’t know any different; this is their normal. Few of them know life apart from feeding tubes, wheelchairs or a complex cocktail of daily medicine.
The parents do an amazing job of trying to maintain their childhood innocence; their strength is incredible to me. What is a parent to do when their hopes of what is considered a normal childhood is dashed? When bikes are traded for wheelchairs and playgrounds for exams rooms and ORs? They do their best to keep things as “normal” as possible, all the while feeling the pressures of making wise medical decisions and the never-ending barrage of medical bills that they will never be able to pay. And yet, these moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas put on a brave face for their little ones.
I believe these amazing kids have a gift to see life for what it is, to embrace the life they have, to make the most of every moment. God has given them the strength to handle unimaginable trials with grace and a smile. They are not upset with their situation; they do not compare what they are going through with those who are not going through a life-altering experience.
I no longer see children in wheelchairs or children from whom childhood has been stolen, but rather, I see their smiles. The twinkle in their eyes and their love of life as they know it. It’s not about what happens to you or what you are going through, it’s about the eye through which you see those circumstances. These little ones are far wiser than their years.
So when I hear the squeal of laughter coming from a child in a wheelchair or even see the precious smooth, round head of a bright-eyed little girl, I smile because I am reminded there is joy in being alive. This is the path God has chosen for them and they embrace it.
By Jamie Foltz
Hello! My name is Jamie Foltz and I have worked at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for over 7 ½ years. I have worn many hats in my time here, but none more important than “Friend.” My mom always used to say that “friends are the very best medicine.” They cheer you up when no one else can. They sit in silence with you when no words will do. They hold your hand through your darkest moments without expecting anything in return. It is friends that get us through some of the toughest times life can throw at us. For families with sick kids, it is friends who help make nearly everything possible.
Now normally at the Ronald McDonald House we’re mostly talking about “Family.” That’s really what we are all about, after all. Keeping families together when it seems like life has other plans. When we talk about how the Ronald McDonald House happens, how it all comes together; it’s all about the friends that make it a reality. Friends who make meals for families they have never even met. Friends who donate their time to give back big smiles to moms and dads who need it the most. Friends who help cover the cost of a family’s stay by taking on one simple challenge.
Last week some of RMHC’s most magnificent friends, The Red Shoe Society, launched a new challenge to our community. It’s called #PayForAStay and it’s an opportunity to help cover the cost for one night’s rest at the Ronald McDonald House. It costs the House about $100 a day to provide for a family in need. While families are asked to help contribute to their stay by giving a $20 donation for each day they are here, no one is ever turned away. And many families simply cannot give. This is where all those friends of the Ronald McDonald House come in. For every $20 donated to help cover the cost of what a family is asked to give, an ornament is given to hang in the donor’s home. They can keep it for themselves, or make the donation in someone else’s honor and give the ornament to them. It’s simple and helps carry on the custom of friends helping friends. To take the #PayForAStay Challenge, simply follow these 3 easy steps:
I took the challenge on Monday and challenged 3 of my friends to do the same. While my mom isn’t here to see just how right she was, I know that my simple gift of $20 has been some of the very best medicine a family at the Ronald McDonald House could ask for. I hope you will help me share the message that “Friends are the very best medicine” by taking the #PayForAStay Challenge too.
By Amber Fosler
When my friends and I partnered with Columbus Running Company to form Love 2 Reach (L2R), our goal was to use physical fitness as a way to reach out to our community. We would train to walk and run full and half marathons while raising money and volunteering time to a local charity. I was pregnant when we selected Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio as our benefactor. I knew it was a great organization but I could have never guessed what a huge impact Ronald McDonald House would have on my life.
I trained with L2R through much of my pregnancy. A month after my son, Elias, was born, I jumped back into training; this time with a run stroller and a sidekick. A week after Elias’s first training, he was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, biliary atresia. Two weeks later, he had major abdominal surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital but we were cautioned that most babies with biliary atresia need a liver transplant before they reach kindergarten. To say this was a stressful time is an understatement.
As he recovered from surgery, we tried to just settle into our life as a family of three. I struggled to find the balance of being back to work, being a new mom and training for a “comeback” half marathon. My husband has been amazing and knows that without running and race walking, I couldn’t possibly have any sense of balance. Getting in mileage is the one thing that is truly a stress reliever and he made sure I had time to get out there. Being out on the trails is the place I dealt with the emotions of my son’s diagnosis. It is where I went to feel like myself when the rest of my world felt like chaos.
Elias’s health took a very quick turn for the worse at the beginning of the year. I found myself crying as I called the airline to cancel my flight to Orlando for what was supposed to be my 10th half marathon. I was crying because my post-baby comeback race wasn’t to be. I was crying because my 6 month old baby was in Intensive Care.
January and February had more days in the hospital than at home. We faced life threatening complications, two calls to 911, two ambulance rides and two helicopter rides to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The only running and walking that happened was within the walls of a hospital.
Elias’s amazing pediatrician and the equally amazing team at Nationwide Children’s GI clinic saved my son’s life with his early diagnosis. They carefully monitored his care until his liver started to fail. Nationwide Children’s doesn’t currently perform liver transplants, which is how we found ourselves at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
My son was added to the national liver transplant list in January. By mid-February, Elias was in acute liver failure. He was running out of time waiting for a deceased donor. While my husband and I tried to get through each hour, each day with our very sick baby, a gift was in the works. My husband’s cousin, Zac, was evaluated to be a living liver donor. He was a match. On February 26th of this year, our hero, Zac, donated a portion of his liver to Elias. Zac selflessly gave Elias the gift of life and gave our family hope.
Since January, we have spent a total of 58 days at Ronald McDonald House of Pittsburgh. My involvement with Ronald McDonald House came full circle. The House came to my family’s rescue during a very dark time. They gave us a place to rest our head. A place to let out the emotions we tried to hide from Elias while he was in the hospital. It gave us a clean, safe place to bring Elias post-transplant before his team felt he was stable enough to return to Columbus. I have no idea where we would have gone without Ronald McDonald House. I went from knowing it was a great organization to experiencing it firsthand.
Elias is now 15 months old and is nearly 8 months post-transplant and he’s thriving. He’s gaining weight, meeting his developmental milestones and keeping us on our toes but now for good reasons. Life threatening complications have been replaced by an ornery boy unrolling toilet paper and playing in the cat’s water bowl.
Since we returned to Columbus in April, I’ve been able to hit the trails again. While I wasn’t able to commit to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Half Marathon due to a follow-up surgery Elias had scheduled at the beginning of October, I trained as if I was going to race. However, the stars aligned in the 11th hour. Three days before the half marathon, after 11 days in Pittsburgh for his surgery, we arrived back home. Someone gave me a race bib and on Sunday morning, I lined up at the start for my tenth half marathon and my first post-baby half marathon. It was like a big party at the end of a very long and heartbreaking journey. Passing by Nationwide Children’s Hospital during the race was very emotional since we spent so much time within those walls. Running through the Angel Mile was even more emotional because not a day goes by that I don’t feel gratitude that we are one of the lucky families and our little man survived.
Once again, running and race walking has given me an outlet to process everything my family has been through this year. It’s given me an outlet to relieve stress but is a reminder to be thankful that Elias is still my training sidekick and L2R’s unofficial mascot.