One year ago today, my daughter had surgery. She was only twelve days old. When she was born, her doctors heard a heart murmur. Since we live in a small town, they referred us to the nearest children’s hospital to get her checked out. We didn’t think much of it. We knew lots of people that were born with heart murmurs that were just fine (including my husband and our son).
What started as just a “better safe than sorry” routine checkup turned into one of the scariest things I’ve ever faced as a parent. LoveBug had pulmonary stenosis, and needed surgery to open one of her heart valves. We were lucky enough that it was a procedure that could be done via catheter without opening her chest.
Everything went perfectly, and the doctors even took images of her heart to show us when it was all over. In the mean time, we were stuck in a city almost three hours away from home. We had no family close by (except my mother who was staying at home with Monster). We had planned on being back home later that evening. We had no clothes, no toiletries, and no where to stay.
To make matters worse, it was cold and flu season. That meant no children under a certain age were allowed on the floor of the hospital where LoveBug was being cared for. We didn’t want to separate the twins for the day, so we brought SweetPea on the road trip with us as well. Unfortunately, the three of us couldn’t even stay in the hospital with LoveBug that first night.
That’s when the best thing happened. The hospital told us they had a Ronald McDonald House on campus where we could stay. It was a lifesaver. We could be just a few minutes away from our baby girl, and have somewhere warm and cozy to sleep.
In case you haven’t heard of this organization before, Ronald McDonald House Charities offer parents and family members shelter near the hospitals. They provide basic food and necessities. They even have a laundry room, a playroom for kids, a library, and a pumping station for new breastfeeding moms. You don’t have to pay to stay there, but donations are very much appreciated.
The Ronald McDonald Houses provide a “home away from home” for families facing a medical crisis. They keep families together when hotels are too expensive and too far away. They help families who are far away from their homes, in the most stressful situations. I can’t speak highly enough of them and what they do.
The wonderful people at the Ronald McDonald House fixed us up with a room to stay, toiletries, and even a portable crib for SweetPea. We made a donation, and wished we could have given them more.
We met people there who stayed for several weeks, sometimes months. They lived far away, much like we did, and would travel home on the weekends. We counted our lucky stars to have only needed to stay just a few nights.
We could have eventually tried to find a hotel. There’s no telling how far away from the hospital it would have been. We had a million other things racing through our minds, and couldn’t focus on what step to take next. It was such a huge relief to have this as an option, both financially and emotionally.
If you’re in the mood to give back this season, I highly recommend you look into your local Ronald McDonald House. You can visit their website to find a location near you. Donations are usually the easiest way to contribute, but you could also contact them to see if they are in need of clothes, jackets, books, or old baby toys.
Every few months we make the road trip back to the hospital to get LoveBug’s heart checked out. Every few months I feel that same anxiety and panic until the doctor tells us everything is just fine. At least now I know should the worst happen again, we’ve got a place to stay.
I will always be grateful for our experience with the Ronald McDonald House. For me, it was the charity I never knew about until I needed it. I know other families feel the same. Have you ever stayed at one before? Have you ever been helped by an organization like this?