Our beautiful baby boy, Francis, was born on a sunny warm day in September, 2015. All seemed fine, after what was a very speedy delivery; he appeared healthy and we were sent home after a few short hours. However, once home, little Francis was starting to show some signs of difficulty, as he was not reaching the most basic milestones a one-day old should. We were rushed to our local ER, were the paediatrician on call was waiting for us. We soon discovered that our less than 24-hour old son was born with a life-threatening birth defect and we were immediately rushed to the McMaster Children’s Hospital, for surgery and care.
Emotionally exhausted, we stopped by our house on route to the hospital to pick up a change of clothes and headed on our way to meet up with Francis who had been transferred by ambulance. It was 1:00 a.m. when we arrived and we were offered a small room next to the NICU ward where we could get a few hours’ sleep. In the morning, following visiting Francis and speaking to the doctors for first introductions, I remember thinking about how long we might be here and where we were going to stay.
I had heard of the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Hamilton but neither of us had any experience or knowledge of what the criteria to get support was like. I found their number and decided to call to find out more. With no hesitation from the staff, we were invited to come by that day to sign us into the house. There was a room available and all that was required was confirmation of our son’s admission into the hospital. Nothing more.
We arrived that afternoon and were truly amazed with the RMH Hamilton facility, truly an oasis for so many people struggling. I remember it being so easy to get checked in. We were welcomed with open arms, given a tour of the facility, provided a key to our room, a pantry in the kitchen, even given freezer and fridge space, for things of our own. To top it off we were told that we were welcomed to stay for as long as we needed. At the time I remember just being astonished by the RMH facility, and how it seemed to have help for most needs you can imagine when you face leaving your home, unplanned, for an undetermined amount of time.
From providing breakfast and dinner, laundry facilities, two rooms for nursing mothers to pump (pump provided and identical to the ones at the hospital), a massive completely stocked self-use kitchen, the RMH also hosted support groups, and events to make families feel at home, such as movie nights in the theatre room. All to support families who are faced with their children being in the hospital. Some families stay for just a short time, others for months and even sadly, some for years.
The Ronald McDonald House provided us a place to rest, a place to regroup and recoup, and a place where we were taken care of entirely, so that we may in turn be able to care for our child. What a gift. What a blessing. What an amazing place to be during such a difficult time. It allowed us to be a family. And it gave us the freedom to not have to worry about anything, other than caring for our baby. Truly a home away from home.
Try and make a bit of time today to head to McDonald’s to support Ronald McDonald House and families like ours. $1 from every Big Mac, Happy Meal and McCafe beverage sold goes to support local children’s charities like RMH, and has helped to raise over $46 million since its inception in 1977. RMH is making a real difference every day for families in their most vulnerable moment, McHappy Day is just a special time to support others going through the same things in our community.