Life changes in an instant. Many of us can relate to the phone call or conversation that changes everything: a new diagnosis or a devastating accident that turns the world upside down.
The families at Ronald McDonald House of Durham & Wake live this story every day. They come from down the road, across the state, and from far distances. Each arrives seeking the same thing: hope. They have hope a child’s illness can be treated, hope that effective rehab will return a child to a relative quality of life, hope that the myriad complications of premature birth can be addressed, one tiny step at a time.
Programs to help ease the burden on families
RMH offers four programs in Durham and Wake Counties. Through a partnership with WakeMed and the hospital’s Heart Center Inn, RMH operates a five-bedroom Ronald McDonald House inside the hospital. RMH at WakeMed welcomes five families of seriously ill or injured children each night. Families who stay with RMH travel at least 25 miles for critical-care treatment. Because of this program, families are able to stay near their children inside the hospital.
Local families also receive RMH support at WakeMed. A volunteer-led Ronald McDonald Family Room on the pediatric floor serves the families of all pediatric patients at WakeMed. Here caregivers receive respite, food, and comfort – all within steps of a sick or injured child’s bedside. Volunteers offer coffee, 7,824 cups of coffee last year alone. Parents may find meals, snacks, and a quiet place for contemplation. They may do the family laundry or step outside of the hospital setting while never leaving the pediatric floor.
Keeping families close is beneficial to clinical staff as much as to patients and families. A full 100% of hospital CEOs surveyed reported that RMH affiliation enhances the hospital’s ability to provide family-centered care. Further, 90.6% reported RMH programs improve the quality of medical care.
Statistics are important, but so are real-life stories
In 2017, Shasta and Andy prepared for the birth of their daughter. Like other first-time parents, they hoped for an uncomplicated welcome for their tiny miracle. During the delivery, Shasta experienced a placental abruption, life-threatening for both mother and child. After an emergency C-section, baby Hazel was delivered.
Hazel received CPR for 45 minutes before being stabilized. While Shasta was admitted for care at Central Carolina Hospital in Sanford, doctors flew young Hazel to WakeMed Children’s Hospital with help from Duke.
When Shasta was released from the hospital, she and Andy came to WakeMed to be with their baby. The physical trauma of Hazel’s delivery and resuscitation required more life-saving efforts, including four surgeries. That’s where Ronald McDonald House stepped in, offering Shasta and Andy a room so they could stay near Hazel. They accepted the offer.
Doctors repaired two intestinal perforations. Hazel received a temporary feeding tube and an ostomy while she healed.
Shasta and Andy stayed with RMH for 36 days. They credit donors and corporate partners like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina for helping to save their child by keeping them close to support her.
Hazel is now happy and well. You can see the complete story of Hazel’s journey here.
Children benefit from family centered-care
Ronald McDonald House programs at WakeMed serve thousands of families each year. Their benefit is more than convenience or logistical support.
Ronald McDonald House programs allow parents to spend more time with their hospitalized children. This eases parents’ and children’s anxiety and allows parents to better interact with care providers. RMH keeps parents better engaged as treatment partners.
Effective communication between caregivers and medical staff is critical for family-centered care and for children’s outcomes. Keeping caregivers and other family members close can be out of reach financially for families who don’t live close to top-rated medical centers.
Embracing families takes a village
It takes a wide community to embrace families facing the serious illness or injury of a child.
Companies and community organizations play a critical role. BCBSNC made an important $50,000 investment in Ronald McDonald House at WakeMed. This necessary funding in the first two years of our program improved families’ medical experiences. For some, it offered necessary access to care.
Individuals and families help as well. Volunteers collect wish-list items to operate our Family Rooms at Duke and WakeMed as well as welcome bags for new families. Kind hearts and hands are needed to provide meals or offer a listening ear. Groups organize fundraisers to support family stays.
There are many ways to offer hope. We invite you to become involved. Join the community of love that offers hope to seriously ill children and their families when they need it most.
Thank you for sharing the miracle of hope!