Finding Healing Through Giving Back to the Ronald McDonald House

December 12, 2012

Caleb’s Army at the 2011 Lights of Love 5K

Our son Caleb was born with a rare, not well understood condition called VACTERL association.  The rarity and severity of his condition pushed us to go to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for his medical care – over 1,000 miles from home.  We have traveled to Cincinnati four times in the past year-twice for consultations and tests, twice for surgery.  Two of the four surgeries in his first year were performed there.

His first surgery in Cincinnati was six hours long, required a week-long hospital stay, and he had complications.  We were there for almost a month; my husband was with us for two weeks while my mother took care of our other children back home.  We had never been to the Ronald McDonald House before that visit, never knew what it was or what it did.  Little did I know that the Ronald McDonald House Cincinnati would become our home away from home.

I remember how we were felt after we were discharged.  We had thought we would be going home- it was disheartening that we had to stay.  We were lost, exhausted, and tense trying to figure out what came next and how we would manage it all.  Then we got a phone call that there was a room available at the Ronald McDonald House.
It is much more than just a place to sleep.  For a small donation (they do not turn you away if you cannot pay), guest families receive:
  • clean, nice hotel-like rooms with TV/DVD (long term patients like the chemo, bone marrow and organ transplant patients stay in suites with a small living area, microwave and refrigerator to accommodate isolation requirements)
  • free meals and snacks provided by volunteer groups
  • full kitchens with pantry and refrigerator access
  • laundry facilities where they provide soap, bleach and dryer sheets
  • cleaning supplies
  • shuttles to area grocery and clothing stores
  • activities, socials, age appropriate playrooms and libraries, computer room, craft room, meditation room, mail, outdoor play area, game room and gym
  • free or reduced passes for entertainment, DVDs, game systems
  • welcoming bag with toiletries and goodies for the child

All the things that make life easier and affordable, all while being within minutes from the children’s hospital, which is priceless when complications happen in the middle of the night and you rush to the ER.  Twice.  After his second surgery in Cincinnati, my husband left in the middle of the night as my father was hospitalized for an emergency appendectomy back home and someone needed to come home to help.  Caleb had time intensive post-op care, complications again, and a prolonged stay.  The reason we survived was with all the help and services offered at the Ronald McDonald House, I could focus on Caleb.

It is more than just a place to stay.  At Ronald McDonald House you get love, strength, hope and a sense of community with families sharing their stories, becoming friends, and helping each other along a difficult journey.  It is a special place filled with the toughest of children and the strongest of parents all battling for something a lot of people take for granted- good health.  All run on volunteers and donations.  Strangers whose generosity I will always be thankful for.

Caleb’s first year of life was hard.  You come out stronger, but you come away with battle scars. Giving back to the Ronald McDonald House was one way we found to help heal ourselves.

Deepak Choptra states, “In our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives.”  In a year that we were desperate for help, it felt good to give help.  We felt connected being able to offer understanding to other families in what has been a confusing year.  We felt cared for by caring for other families. We found meaning through giving back in a year riddled with questions that had no answers.

This will be our second year participating in the Lights of Love 5K/Kids K benefitting our local Ronald McDonald House Charities of Austin and Central Texas.  Our team is “Caleb’s Army” and last year we came in first, raising over $5,500 in donations to the Ronald McDonald House.  For his birthday, we requested that donations be sent to the Ronald McDonald House in lieu of gifts. We collect pull-tabs and volunteer at events when we can.  We want every family caring for a sick child to have the experience we did.  It changes your life.  Help comes when you need it most.  Healing comes when you give back.