Ronald McDonald House has provided a soft place for my family to land since 1999. We started going to Duke for Timothy's pulmonary and cardiac care when my husband was stationed at Fort Bragg. At the time, I was a new highway driver, and the drive up there about did me in. It helped so much to stay overnight at RMH after a long day of appointments and then get up in the morning and take that highway trip back home. We soon moved across the state and much farther away from Duke but remained Duke patients. Thankfully, I am now a comfortable highway driver. However, the 8+ hour round trip on top of a 6 hour visit with four kids would be nearly impossible to accomplish in one day. I am so thankful for the years of restful nights at RMH. Our time is coming to a close with them. Although Timothy will remain a Duke patient for as long as we live in North Carolina, he is aging out of the Ronald McDonald House program. He will be allowed to stay with them long enough to get through his next cardiac surgery (in about a year).
Each room has a theme and we got a cute princess room this time. It was perfect inspiration for Little Red Riding Hood's upcoming party. This room is a pretty good size by RMH standards. A few years ago, we had to squeeze our family into a room so small that we had kids sleeping on pillows in the closet! You had to crawl over the sea of beds from the doorway. The size of the room doesn't matter for those of us who are only staying a few days. You spend most of your time at the hospital or in the common areas anyway.
One of the things that is so special about RMH is the fully stocked kitchen. Everyone gets their own space in one of the refrigerators. There is also a house refrigerator and house stocked pantry from which you are welcome to take food. In addition, dinner is served most nights. Volunteers from the community come in and cook lovely meals. They also have volunteers that come in and hold game nights, bingo night (with prizes), craft nights, and therapy dog visits. What a relief for exhausted families to not have to worry about dinner or how to entertain their children after a long day at the hospital.
A fish fry and Shrimp Boil!
We are so grateful for the many helping hands that have welcomed us over the years! Sometimes we have arrived with screaming babies in our arms and other times with worried hearts for a child who could not handle the transitions of RMH and needed to stay at home in respite. That time the staff provided extra phone cards so I could keep calling home and checking on her. They really do their best to provide for your every need.
We will be leaving a piece of ourselves with RMH. Here is a ceiling panel that Tim made in 2003. It is a work of art from Tim's very own Jackson Pollock period. It hangs next to dozens of other ceiling panels in the kitchen. All of this extra care costs the families a tiny $10 a night (less for those who stay a very long time).
This trip was extra special, because we got to visit with my homeschool bloggy friend, Leslie. Our families have met once before and we had a great time visiting them again. THANK YOU, Leslie, for hosting our family again. You really must come our way some day.
Update on Tim ~
The appointment went well. The doctors decided to do some extra tests since they can see we will be facing more pacemaker surgery in the next year. Our entire family spent the day wandering from appointment to appointment all over that huge hospital. I think we walked a few miles. So far the test results are good and Tim looks healthy. His heart rate under the pacemaker was 41 beats per minute, finally making him not fully pacemaker dependent. In other words, if he was in a terrible accident that damaged his pacemaker, we would have time to get to the hospital. What a nice change after years of being told that damage to his pacemaker would mean doing CPR until we got to the hospital and much less chance of survival than present circumstances. Earlier in his life, wherever we lived, a rescue helicopter was always informed to be ready to whisk him to emergency care, as he would have less than 5 minutes to live. This time, the doctors were overall very pleased. The most important test results will be in later this week. We are praying that there are no surprises in them. Also, they changed the activity setting on his pacemaker so he should have more energy to walk Boomer farther.
Lastly, my kids are so good at waiting room waiting. I was so pleased with their ability to get through the super long day. We packed a lunch and took games, coloring books, the Kindle and the laptop with DVDs. Sometimes they just played imaginary games like the picture above. They sat in that window sill during one of our longer stops for 2 whole hours.