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In March of 2008 our daughter was born five and a half weeks early. While it was fairly clear she would be fine, it required her to stay at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit rather than allowing her to come home with us. When life throws something like this at you, you drop everything and respond. I spent my days at the hospital all day, every day for three weeks straight – until she was finally able to come home.
During that time I discovered I had access to our hospital’s Ronald McDonald Room. In stark contrast the the NICU, the room was a refuge to go when you needed to eat, make calls or gain perspective. Unlike any other area of the hospital, it was bright, sunny and felt like a second home. There were days my husband brought his laptop and worked so he could be near us. Knowing he was steps away afforded me comfort and gave him the opportunity to see his daughter throughout the day. It was such an unexpected luxury.
Our experience may have been challenging, but even in those tough moments it was clear that were were among the more fortunate cases. Families we met were struggling with finances, schedules, family demands and/or simply lived far away from the hospital. Others knew they had much longer to go before their little one would come home, if the child came home at all. Some of the stories were just heartbreaking. It was a life changing experience to be sure.
In comparison, our situation was so minor. My heart genuinely went out for those other parents. For families like those, this Room and its full shower, fully stocked kitchen, play area, big screen television and wireless internet access were answers to much needed prayer. It served as a home away from home for them and made things just a bit more comfortable. Here I was happy to have access to a microwave, standing next to mothers and fathers who essentially lived at the hospital for months on end. It would have been easy to feel guilty, but instead I felt determined to give back one day.
If you aren’t familiar with the organization (and I certainly was not, before 2008) the Ronald McDonald House Charity assists families with children in the hospital. While we enjoyed the bounty of our hospital’s Ronald McDonald Room, other families made use of the nearby Ronald McDonald House. The Houses offer families a way to stay together in close proximity to the treatment hospital, and be comfortable and cared for during their stay. Families at the Houses are given private bedrooms, home cooked meals and access to support groups – all within feet of the hospital. This option is available to any family with a child in the hospital, all that is asked for in exchange is a small donation. $5 to $25. Even at such a low cost, the RMHC policy is that families are never turned away. Ever! If its not possible to pay, the fee is waived. What a difference this must make! Every family should have access to that possibility, especially in times of struggle.
Our situation may have been very minor by comparison, but I did learn that a parent will drop everything to be by their child’s side. Even if that means leaving a job, responsibilities or the comfort of home. And for families who need it, the Rooms and Houses give them one less area of life to stress about, making it possible to completely focus on their child. For every purchase made in the Venti Cafe, 10% of proceeds will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. I encourage you to take a look at the organization and observe the amazing ways in which they help families across the country.
Think of it as an opportunity to make your surroundings more beautiful while giving families just like yours a better time in a challenging situation.