Taking Care of It All

Jess in the NHL All-Star Legacy Tree House
Jess in the NHL All-Star Legacy Tree House

Jess Uithoven is an extraordinary young lady. She might also be the Columbus Ronald McDonald House’s most engaged social media follower. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with a rare condition called collagenous gastritis. This condition causes her stomach lining to form collagen bands and become hardened, making it less mobile. The gastritis has caused gastroperisis, meaning the stomach is paralyzed and doesn’t move food the way it should. Both conditions cause nausea at a constant level. When Jess was diagnosed, there were only 50 diagnosed cases worldwide, and half of those cases were children. Doctors do not know the cause of it and there is no cure. Jess has tried every medication available for treatment of her symptoms and there is no relief.

In 2013, Jess and her mom, Louise, left their home in Montana to try more therapies at the Mayo Clinic, but those treatments were unsuccessful. The Mayo Clinic referred the Uithovens to Nationwide Children’s Hospital because of their expertise in the gastrointestinal field. Through more testing, doctors determined Jess would be an excellent candidate for the gastric stimulator. This stimulator tells the stomach to empty. Jess has found that the stimulator helps, but it will be a long process to find the right setting to alleviate more of the nausea. She is on a long road to recovery, and the Columbus Ronald McDonald House has become a second home to her and her mom while Jess is receiving treatment.

Jess and Louise first came to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in May of 2014 and they have been back four times since then. Some of their trips have been a few days and some have been up to three weeks. Each time, they have stayed at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. “This place is a second home to us. We love the homey feeling here. It is like a fancy hotel room put into a home. We love being able to do a variety of activities while we are there. We play pool, watch movies in the theater, read in the library – Jess loves to sit on the oversized bears; we also love the rooftop garden when the weather is nice. We’ve gotten to know a lot of the people that work and volunteer there. Meika is one of our favorite people there – she always has kind words for us, stops to chat, and we stay in touch with her outside of our visits. We also have been fortunate enough to get to go to a Columbus Blue Jackets game! Everyone at the House is so nice and makes sure you always have what you need.”

Without the Columbus Ronald McDonald House, Jess and Louise say they wouldn’t be able to afford the trips from Montana to Ohio. The Uithovens appreciate the meals, laundry, and “just doing life while we are there.” They say “the Ronald McDonald House takes care of all of that!”