By Jennifer Tackett
Christmas 2013 was supposed to be magical. It was our first as a married couple and we were also expecting our first child. I hadn’t felt great that entire day so we checked my blood pressure and it was really high. We went to our local ER just to be safe. After a few tests they told us I had severe Pre-Eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome and the only cure was to deliver the baby! Our hearts sank and we were terrified because I was only 25 weeks pregnant. The next day on Christmas morning I was transported from our hometown of Pikeville, Kentucky to the University of Kentucky in Lexington which was three hours away because they had a higher level NICU for the baby. I was given so many medicines and steroid shots to try to help keep her in. Four days after being there, my internal organs started to shut down and my brain started to swell so they rushed in and did an emergency c-section. At exactly 26 weeks pregnant on December 29th we delivered a beautiful but very tiny 1 pound 6 ounce baby girl whom we named Autymn Layne. Her lungs were severely premature and she was placed on the ventilator. She was given a 50% chance of surviving at that time. During this trying time we were three hours from our home and didn’t know where we would stay to be close to our baby girl. The local Ronald McDonald House had just closed for renovation. We knew we would be there a few months and we could not afford a hotel for that long. We pulled our RV to a spot we found 45 minutes from the hospital. It was a long, cold winter traveling back and forth daily, but we survived. After five months we heard the Ronald McDonald House was opening. I will never forget the feeling I had when we checked in. I couldn’t help but cry during the tour thinking how blessed we were to be able to have such a nice and safe place to rest only minutes away from our baby!
After many months and failed attempts to get Autymn off the ventilator, we realized that her lungs were too sick to be able to allow her to breathe on her own. She was diagnosed with BPD (Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia) which is a chronic lung disease. In May 2014 she had to have a trach placed. This made her worse than before. We were told that she may not make it another 30 days. We were not willing to accept that for an answer. After some research, we learned that Nationwide Children’s Hospital had an actual BPD unit for babies just like Autymn. We knew we had to get her there ASAP. This hospital was six hours from our home, so naturally we thought what are we going to do? Where are we going to stay? We were told there was also a Ronald McDonald House in Columbus where we could stay. This lifted a great burden from our shoulders.
In July 2014, my daughter and I were airlifted to Nationwide Children’s as my husband, Erick, made the trip by car with our belongings. While I stayed with the baby and was getting her settled in, Erick walked over and got us checked in at the Columbus RMH. He came back and told me how nice it was and how nice everyone was to him. What a blessing it was to have such a nice, safe place to sleep and have a warm meal within walking distance from the hospital! The most important thing the Ronald McDonald House gave us was TIME with our daughter. A baby’s development improves so much better with the presence of both parents. Without the Ronald McDonald House we would not have been able to be with her daily and be the parents we wanted to be to her and help her thrive. It also allowed Autymn’s grandparents to be close to her and give her that special attention only a grandparent can! We would have only been able to afford to drive and see her a few times a month if not for them. For this we are forever grateful!
Nationwide Children’s truly saved Autymn’s life and five months after arriving in Columbus on NICU day 351 Autymn was released to go HOME for the first time! We can never thank everyone at the hospital and at the Ronald McDonald House enough for everything they have done for our family during this tough journey! The kindness shown to us from the Ronald McDonald House staff and volunteers has truly changed us as people. It makes us want to give, help more, and be better people than we were before. We feel we are better parents and all around better human beings than we were before we started on our journey. Nobody can begin to imagine what a great organization RMHC truly is until you have a sick child, need a safe, warm place to stay and a place to go to after a long hard day at the hospital to escape the monitors and machines. It was also a place where we made lifelong friends with other parents going through similar situations. It means so much to have people to talk to that empathize with how you feel and what you are going through.
Autymn is now 19 months old and has been home for 8 months. She is the happiest baby you will ever meet and always has a smile on her face. She is meeting all of her milestones and doing great on a minimal amount of oxygen so we expect to be able to get her trach out this spring! We travel to Columbus once a month for a few nights for follow-up visits. It is so nice to know we can continue to stay at the Ronald McDonald House with Autymn. She loves all the different rooms she can play in during our stays! Every month I always say “we’re home” as we pull in the parking lot. It truly does feel like home away from home and we look forward to visiting and seeing our family and friends each month! Thanks again for ALL that you continue to do for not only our family but for ALL families with sick children!
By Stephanie Milan
I’m fairly new to my role here as Volunteer Manager at RMHC of Central Ohio, so when I went to unlock the Princess Room yesterday for my new friend, Sydney, I fumbled around a little, figuring out which magical key on my ring was the correct one.
This isn’t the first set of keys I’ve been given by the friendly folks of the Ronald McDonald House Charities; it’s actually my third.
The first set I received as a guest at the RMH in Cleveland while my newborn baby boy, Milo, was seen by a specialist after having been born 16 weeks early, weighing just over one pound. Those keys opened the door to a soft bed and a warm meal after very long and scary days in an unfamiliar place.
The second set of keys was given to me just months ago, when I began volunteering here just after Milo, at age three, had fought his battle with cancer as hard as he could, but had to let go. With a whole lot of sadness in my soul and way too much idle time, I found my way here. I will forever be grateful for those keys, as they opened my heart to a new way to heal through helping others.
But the keys I hold now, they unlock something much more than the doors to this house. They open a whole new world of possibilities. A world where guests become friends, volunteers are a family and the welcoming warmth of this enchanted house makes all people that enter feel like they are home.
Dear Ronald McDonald House Volunteers and Staff,
My husband and I would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Our baby, Clay, was transferred here very unexpectedly after being born prematurely. We have now spent almost a month at Nationwide Children’s Hospital as our son has grown and learned how to eat. We would not have been able to manage this without your help! We live two hours away and have a three year old son at home. While my husband has stayed home with our son, it has been a comfort knowing I had somewhere safe to stay that is so close to the hospital. This has allowed me to watch over our baby and be involved in his care. Everything from the room to the services you provide has went above and beyond. This is truly a wonderful place! Thank you all for being so good to our family!
The Boggs Family
By Katie Cannon, Team RMHC Member
I promised myself that I would run a half marathon before I turned 50. Being that my longest run ever was 4 miles, this truly would be a major accomplishment for me.
I am not a runner. In fact, I hate to run. When I saw that the Columbus Ronald McDonald House had a fundraising team for the half marathon, I joined immediately. Running for RMHC was the incentive I needed to keep on training, especially because I have personally witnessed why the Columbus Ronald McDonald House is a necessity for families at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I couldn’t give up on myself because I would then be giving up on the families that needed the RMH!
My oldest child, Rachel, was born on December 4th, 1991, with a very serious heart defect. Her first three months of life and many, many future days and weeks were spent in Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
During this stressful time, my ex-husband and I had the luxury of our child being hospitalized in the city in which we actually lived. We could go home every night to our own bed; our families kept our fridge stocked with food, and we never lacked for visitors to sit with us during the scariest times ever of our whole lives!
I couldn’t even imagine dealing with a Rachel’s hospitalization, far from our own home and support system. Yet I met so many parents that were doing exactly that and remaining strong because of the Ronald McDonald House. Until my time with Rachel at Children’s, I just thought the Ronald McDonald House was basically a hotel that parents could stay in for a very small cost. Wow, was I ever wrong!
The Ronald McDonald House does provide the hotel-type rooms at very little or no costs. However, it provides so much more. RMHC families get a true family to go home to every night by just walking across the street, instead of driving hours to their far away homes. There are home cooked meals waiting every night. Most importantly, because of volunteers, there is a built in support system, to help through those very long and scary times.
Thank you to RMHC of Central Ohio! I am so proud to have helped this great cause! I thank you for being the incentive to check “run a half marathon before you are 50” off of the bucket list!
By Diana Beil, RMHC of Central Ohio Volunteer
In 1991, my brother was a patient at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. For several months, my mother stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House while he was in the hospital. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to volunteer with a group of coworkers who prepared a meal for the families staying at the House. Being there reminded me of all the stories my mother shared about her time staying at the House and how blessed we were to have the House during such a difficult time. After that visit, I realized I wanted to become more involved with the Columbus Ronald McDonald House and I have been volunteering ever since.
My favorite part of being a Housewarmer is the interactions with the families. It is a great feeling to know the simplest of tasks – providing directions, providing forgotten toiletries, etc. makes their day just a bit easier. I am always fascinated by the distance people come to receive care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I have a great sense of pride for the Hospital and the House, and feel confident telling the families that they are in the best place they can be for their child. I also have met some of the most generous people working at the House. It is nice being surrounded by others who value volunteerism and giving back to our community.
My mother came to the Columbus Ronald McDonald House with me a couple years ago to take a tour. It is very different than the small house she remembers. I can’t wait to have her come back and check out the new addition. I think the most rewarding part of being a volunteer at the House is knowing I’m making my mother proud and giving back to such a wonderful place that helped our family all those years ago!
By Abby Brumme
“As we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives and our own happiness.” –Dieter F. Uchtdorf. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was pretty much always that I was going to be a teacher, an actress, or ballerina, but we all know how that goes. If you asked me what I was going to do for my career when I started college, I would have again said that I was going to be a teacher. Here I am at my desk at RMHC of Central Ohio as the Development Associate with a Communications degree and I couldn’t be happier.
How did I end up here? Miracles. Miracles like Jenna, Brandt, Jackson, Lyndon, Robert, Carly, Dylan and so many more. I was lucky enough to get to know these little miracles through Dance Marathon, which raised money for the local children’s hospital at BGSU and I knew immediately that my career path was going to be changing. I met children who spent the beginning of their lives in the hospital, children who have beat all the odds, children who have gone to more doctors’ appointments in their short lives than most people will ever have to, but most importantly children who never wiped the smile off their faces or gave up hope no matter what they were going through. Spending time with these miracle children led me realize that my path in life was going to change and for the better.
Never in a million years would I have thought that I would have graduated college and within weeks begin working for such a rewarding organization. Every day at work I see new miracles coming through our doors who are also working to beat the odds against them. Not only do I see the many miracles who stay here at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, but I also see countless volunteers, community members, organizations and so many others who selflessly give to create a welcoming home-away-from-home for the many families who stay with us. It’s true what the quote says–by losing myself in the service of others I found my path and my happiness.
By The National Board
One day, a mom and a dad will walk out their child’s hospital room with heavy hearts and seek solitude together in the Safelite Serenity Rooftop Garden of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. There, dozens of engraved pavers will line the walkway and represent to those parents that a community cares about them and their child.
This is why The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors is honored to be one of hundreds of donors who support the selfless cause of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House through participation in its rooftop garden paver program, and are truly grateful that such a charity exists for seriously ill children and their families.
The National Board has been tied to the good works of the Columbus Ronald McDonald House through the volunteerism of its employees and collecting items for the Wish List during the holidays. Additionally, in 2010, Nationwide Children’s Hospital donated its 40,900-pound watertube boiler to the National Board to be used as part of the training program the organization offers to pressure equipment inspectors from around the world.
About the National Board: Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, since 1919, The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors is a non-profit organization that promotes greater safety to life and property through uniformity in the construction, installation, repair, maintenance, and inspection of pressure equipment. Learn more at www.nationalboard.org.
By Dan Wyatt, Cardinal Health Employee
Beginning in January of 2014 my daughter, Riley, began to suffer from continual illnesses. After almost 2 months of constant doctors’ visits, she was finally diagnosed with HSP (Henoch-Schonlein Purpura). HSP is a form of blood vessel inflammation or vasculitis. HSP affects the small vessels called capillaries in the skin and frequently the kidneys. HSP results in a purplish skin rash associated with joint inflammation (arthritis) and sometimes cramping pain in the abdomen. As with most illnesses, its severity ranges from mild to extreme. Unfortunately we were about to find out Riley will soon be diagnosed with its most severe form.
On Riley’s 9th birthday (March of 2014) we were attempting to celebrate her birthday. We hadn’t even cut her cake when she leaned over to me and said “Daddy, something’s wrong.” Within minutes my wife and I were rushing Riley to Nationwide Children’s Hospital with severe internal bleeding. Within the course of one hour, Riley had lost all the blood in her body, twice. Without knowing the exact point of the internal bleed, numerous tests were being run while she was being given emergency blood transfusions. This is when we were told of the severity of the HSP and the critical situation Riley was now in. She was literally fighting for her life. After what seemed like forever, Riley was finally stabilized and moved into Children’s ICU, where she spent a week recovering. After still more tests, the doctors were not able to find the source of the bleed. She was eventually released with a high dose of steroids, to help with the internal bleeding, a course of 30 days of antibiotics to keep her from picking up any immediate infections, and pain medications.
A year later, Riley still suffers from HSP, however its side effects of the rashes, the severe stomach cramping and joint pain has been greatly reduced. Her specialist at Children’s finally gave the green light to discontinue the steroids and pain medications as of March 1st; and we hope that by the end of this year, she will be discharged from his care. At this year’s birthday celebration, Riley was surrounded by family and a dozen of her closest girlfriends! It truly was a celebration of her life!
I have been volunteering at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House for the past couple years and I have always been touched by the stories of those with children spending time at the hospital. After I became one of those parents who spent more time at the hospital, rather than at home with their child, volunteering here took on a whole new meaning. I grew even fonder of the services that both Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House provide to those in need.
By Megan Evans, Grants Administrator, The Licking County Foundation
The Licking County Foundation is pleased to partner with the Ronald McDonald House to support the Helping Hands Program designed to help support nights of rest for families of seriously-ill children. Bordering Franklin County to the east, Licking County residents often find themselves in need of a place to call home when their young ones require care at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The Licking County Foundation, founded in 1956 to improve the quality of life for all citizens of Licking County, is partnering with the Ronald McDonald House for a sixth year to support Licking County families in need of a place to stay.
Licking County consistently ranks within the top five counties in Ohio to use Ronald McDonald House’s services. Although most Licking County residents are within an hour drive of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, for many families with a seriously ill child, having the ability to stay at the Ronald McDonald House while their child receives treatment directly across the street provides a source of relief. Staying at the Ronald McDonald House provides Licking County residents the precious gift of time with their child and saves them countless hours they would otherwise use commuting to and from the hospital.
Since 2006, Ronald McDonald House has provided services to over 1,200 families from Licking County with over 10,000 nights of rest. The superior facilities at the Ronald McDonald House give families the ability to stay together and be close to their ill child, allowing them to focus on what is most important—the successful recovery of their child. We truly appreciate our partnership with the Ronald McDonald House and their support of the Foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life for all citizens of Licking County, one family at a time.
By Carly Damman
February 14th, 2015 marked a special day for both Ohio University students and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. On that day, over 130 students came together to dance for 12 hours straight while raising a total of $18,173 dollars for Ronald McDonald House families. February 14th marked the first ever dance marathon at Ohio University and the first ever dance marathon to raise support for RMHC of Central Ohio.
As an eager and ambitious college senior, I decided to help start BobcaThon at Ohio University. Little did I know it would land me a big girl job one day! BobcaThon became a reality due to hard work, passionate students and a desire to help the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. What a bittersweet moment for me when February 14th finally came around and the idea of a dance marathon became reality! Transitioning from being a student who helped plan the event to a full-time staff member at the Ronald McDonald House was a bit of a challenge for me at first. However, as soon as I stepped foot in the Student Center at Ohio University and saw the event come to life, the challenge was over and the celebration could begin! The students did such an incredible job honoring the families and embracing the atmosphere of a true dance marathon.
Reflecting on my tough transition from student to full-time staff member, I am repeatedly reminded of the transition families staying with us have to make. Can you imagine leaving your home, your friends, your family and your job to spend weeks, even months, at a hospital? It’s surely not an easy transition. It’s probably one of the hardest transitions a family ever has to make. My transition pales in comparison! I am so honored and so humbled to work for an organization that strives to serve families of seriously-ill children in their deepest time of need each and every day. I am beyond thrilled to continue working alongside BobcaThon students to make the dance marathon more successful each year.
For me, each hour of the 12 hour dance marathon symbolized an hour of anticipation for an RMHC family. An hour of waiting during a child’s surgery, an hour of celebration after a cure is found, an hour of praying for positive test results or an hour spent anxiously awaiting next steps on an already long journey. I admire the stamina of each BobcaThon dancer to stand on their feet for 12 hours straight but that’s nothing compared to the strength of our Ronald McDonald House families.
Remember to always take time to dance for the amazing families that stay at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House!