The time we spent at the Ronald McDonald House was unforgettable. Temporary housing doesn’t explain it at all. It is so much more than just a roof over your head.
Our story started out in May 2017. Our beautiful and loving daughter Chloe was hospitalized at Boston Children’s Hospital with an eating disorder.
She was fed by an NG tube for 6 weeks because she refused to eat. I lived at the hospital for those 6 weeks; Monday-Friday. My husband would relieve me on weekends so I could spend time with our other daughter. It took 6 long painful weeks until we were offered a bed at Hasbro Hospital. Providence didn’t seem so far- after all- it was still in New England. However, the first ride down took 90 minutes from our home on the NH border. I knew I couldn’t do this every day so we contacted the Ronald McDonald House.
We admitted her to an inpatient program and I became a resident of the Ronald McDonald House on July 1st, 2017.
Having the house so close to the hospital was so helpful. I attended the 3 scheduled visiting hours each day. I walked the route from Hasbro to the house for each visiting hour for 3 weeks. My husband and eldest daughter were able to visit on weekends and stayed at the house with me. This was so helpful so we could support each other while we struggled to have a better understanding of what our 10 year old was going through.
For those three weeks, I felt incredibly lost. I tried to figure out my focus during the day- aside from trying to keep it together.
I will never forget the first meal I attended in the house. I felt like a new student in a school where I knew no one. I was anxious, exhausted, and lonely. The meal was prepared by a group of interns for a local business called Biotec. The group consisted of young college students full of life. For the first time in a month and a half, I sat down at had my first ‘home-cooked’ meal. One of the interns came over to me and chatted about her past and what she wanted to do in the future. It was the first conversation that I had that wasn’t centered on my daughter. That conversation let me escape from life for a few minutes. I clearly remember finishing my meal while the group was all huddled together for a picture in the kitchen. I stopped and thanked them. I explained that it was first meal that I had in 6 weeks that wasn’t from a hospital cafeteria. I could barely get through thanking them because I was so emotional. To them, they were just cooking a large dinner for people. For me, it was a symbol of hope. Strangers coming together to give back – even if for an hour.
My time at the Ronald McDonald house was full of these moments. As my daughter progressed in her care, she was eventually able to discharge to the Partial Hospitalization Program. She became a member of the house after 3 weeks in the inpatient program. Because of her illness, I had to cook her meals to ensure the amounts she was eating, etc. Having the ability to use the kitchen and store food was priceless. I never would’ve been able to get her weight restored without the use of these facilities.
It was during my time in the kitchen that I met more of the volunteers. The men and women who came to the house each week to clean, cook, and organize were wonderful. They provided more than just a clean place to sit. They were willing to listen, to offer support, and occasionally hug. These strangers became my support system when I couldn’t be home with my family.
In addition to the volunteers, living at the house also provided us with a support system of other parents. I met numerous parents during my time there whom I will never forget. Several were new mom’s just starting out- while others were parents of teenagers in the Partial Program. I remember in the first few weeks, I met a mom who had been a patient of the Partial Program- for an eating disorder. Talking to her gave me hope that we were going to get through this rough time. Living at the house was different for each parent- but the core was the same. We were there because we were caring for a family member who needed to get better.
The house and all that comes with it took away the stress of ‘how are we going to afford this? How am I going to juggle daily living tasks and taking care of my child?’ We would not have been able to survive without the assistance of RMH Providence.
To be honest with you, as I sit and write this- I still can’t put into words what the house gave us. We are forever indebted to the organization.
Since returning home, I have tried to mention the house every chance I get. We’ve donated back, and have encouraged others to do so. Most recently, my sister and I participated in the GivingTuesday and were able to raise over $1,000 in donations to the house (just with private donations- does not include Bill Gates and the match of contributions).
We are happy to do this as the organization was so supportive during our time of need.
We still have a very long road to full recovery and days are still a struggle- but we are on the right track.
~Jill, Chloe’s Mom