Every so often one of our guests offers to share their story. We share it with you today to put a face to the many families that you help by supporting Ronald McDonald House.
In the winter/spring of 2012-2013, I watched my beautiful boy languish into just skin and bones. His once rosy cheeks had now faded and the sparkle in his blue eyes went out as they sank into dark rims. As he slept at night, curled around a favorite bear, I could, from across the room, count each vertebra to where it sank into a bony pelvis. I pulled up the blankets to find cold limbs. I’d lean in; “Is he breathing?” and feel a pulse barely beating. He was always so cold and new fine hairs grew in a downy layer over his body which was covered in bruises all the time now. He rarely ate and exercised all the time to the point of exhaustion. Doctor after doctor failed to recognize or understand an eating disorder that had now consumed my child. When his heart became so weak that he could barely stand without support, he was admitted to Seattle Children’s Hospital.
At Children’s they began immediately to stabilize his cardiac status. However, within 24 hrs, he was then transferred to the inpatient psychiatric unit. There, he was the only child with an eating disorder, locked up with other children who were psychotic, schizophrenic, delusional, detoxing from street drugs and the like. It was unbearably frightening and we left in 8 days once he was stable. We transferred to Portland, where we found the Kartini Clinic – one of the few facilities that, first, were experts in the field of adolescent eating disorders and second, would admit and treat a little boy.
We live in Washington State and knowing we would need a place to stay while my son received treatment, we were referred to the Ronald McDonald House on the campus of Randall Children’s Hospital. In my world of turmoil and uncertainty, it was ever so important to find refuge from this storm and I found it here at the Ronald McDonald house (RMH)…or I should say home. The ultimate beauty in a home is its emotional warmth and RMH provides this by making each and every family the center of its purpose. The RMH offers a welcoming safe place for families. Rooms are beautifully decorated and there are comfortable beds; nothing offers a place to release the day’s distress more than a comfortable bed! One’s privacy is guaranteed, as each family is also respectful of the other.
The RMH also restored my faith in humanity. I have always been treated respectfully and there’s always a smile to greet you at the front desk. The daily kindness and assistance – from locating the post-office to the respite of having a service organization come in and make dinner, or lunch and even Sunday brunch – is restoring to exhausted parents. The shared areas of laundry, the library, TV rooms, kitchen/dining are always clean and available. Once friends are made, cooking and creating meals together becomes a shared adventure in cultures and traditions of others. I eventually brought down my junior high-aged son so that we could remain a family during this time and was he ever excited to see a Teen Room set aside just for his age and needs! The RMH also regularly schedules extracurricular activities with volunteers who bring in comfort pets, music, yoga, massage, art, rides to the farmer’s market or even to the grocery store. The RMH has been responsive to the needs of my family and to me as a parent, which was a nice break from daily responsibilities.
I could not possibly have traveled this path without the unwavering support and friendship of the team here at RMH. We are heading into our fifth month here, a place that we can call home and know that we are safe and cared for. Any family in a crisis will find refuge and a home here – there are welcoming arms, smiles and hugs that will get you through that moment of time when you need it most. The positive energy that resounds within RMH has also been a wonderful place to heal, and I’m happy to report that my beautiful boy is slowly coming back to me.
Tei, RMHC Oregon guest