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An Oasis of Calm
Like most 8-year-olds, Harry liked going to school and seeing his friends. But while he otherwise lived a happy life, he would wake up in the middle of the night with excruciating headaches, vomiting and nosebleeds.
With reason to worry, his mother, Alison, took him to the hospital where a brain scan revealed a lump of scar tissue on his brain. The findings led to a lengthy stay at Frenchay Children’s Hospital in Bristol, England.
Although Alison was upset and terrified of her son’s diagnosis, she found respite at a Ronald McDonald Family Room just off the children’s ward. “The hospital environment is frightening when you feel so helpless,” she says. “The Ronald McDonald Family Room was invaluable in providing peace of mind.”
Like the other Ronald McDonald Family Rooms around the world, the one Alison visited offered her a place where she could eat a warm meal and relax. She commiserated with other parents who were going through similar experiences and found a place of comfort in the frenetic environment of the hospital.
“You simply can’t be in the ward all of the time,” Alison says. “The Ronald McDonald Family Room made all the difference in coping with what otherwise would have been an unbearable experience. They provided holistic support for my entire family.”
Feeling the Difference
Tests revealed Harry had high pressure of cerebral fluid causing his brain to swell. Treatment to reduce the fluid was successful, and Harry returned home. His family thought everything was fine, but a few weeks later the headaches returned.
This time, doctors referred Harry to a different children’s hospital — one without a Ronald McDonald House or Family Room. “The whole nightmare was starting again, but it was much harder to cope this time without the support of RMHC,” Alison says. She had to sleep on a chair in the ward, and she didn’t have a place to eat and talk with other parents. There was no quiet area for her to relax and recharge.
Following more extensive tests and new medication, Harry was discharged with a good prognosis, and he remains healthy today. Harry and his mom don’t want to go through the experience again, especially without RMHC. “The Family Room provided a feeling of almost parent-like caring,” Alison says. “The emotional support from the volunteers and other families meant so much at a time when I felt most terrified and desperate.”