Eighteen hours after we welcomed our son, Rowan, to the world in an uncomplicated delivery, our world was turned upside down. The medical team identified some puzzling activity that we had all been noticing as persistent seizures, and we were quickly transported to McMaster Children’s Hospital. There, the severity of the situation really set in as the NICU team struggled to get the seizures under control, and Rowan needed to be intubated and heavily sedated for his own safety. For the first couple of days, we were in complete shock and just simply ran on adrenaline until our new reality set in. So much was unknown and unfamiliar, and the medical team were still in the stages of just trying to put a stop to the seizures.
Being away from the comfort of home in such an uncertain time was utterly terrifying. We had only packed for a couple of nights at the hospital and hadn’t made any plans for anyone to take care of our home and our cat (who grew very used to us being home during the pandemic).
Though we stayed in the Care by Parent room at the Hospital for the first couple of nights, it was evident that that wasn’t a long-term option. When a member on the hospital team mentioned the possibility of staying at Ronald McDonald House Charities South Central Ontario (RMHC SCO), we were initially scared of being an entire block away from Rowan rather than just down the hall. However, we knew going to RMHC SCO would be good overall for rest and postpartum recovery so eventually we were optimistic and relieved we would have a haven to go to for a break and to regroup. We had heard of Ronald McDonald House before as our friends stayed at the one near SickKids.
If we were unable to stay at RMHC SCO, we likely would have stayed at a local (and very expensive) hotel. There was a possibility of staying with friends in the Hamilton region, but we were feeling very vulnerable and knew we needed space away from everyone except immediate family and Rowan’s medical team.
The fact that RMHC SCO is next door to the hospital made it feasible for us to visit Rowan at all hours of the day and night without hassle, and to trade off easily. Due to the pandemic, only one parent was allowed at bedside in the NICU at a time. The close proximity and walkability meant that swapping our time with Rowan was one less thing to be concerned about.
If we weren’t able to stay at RMHC SCO, we would’ve traveled back and forth from our home in Guelph. Travelling by car would’ve been very time consuming and expensive; depending on traffic a drive could be 40 minutes to 1 hour each way.
At the House there was lots of food and, importantly, a good variety of food so we weren’t just trying to live off granola bars and bananas. We also had all the privacy and amenities we needed right after childbirth. A big one I remember was a designated room to wash and sanitize breast pump equipment, which we just wouldn’t have had in a hotel. Even just having a place to park the car without worrying about paying for parking was a major relief. All of these things would have taken a small percentage of attention, but in that moment, we needed 100% of our attention on Rowan.
One night I remember coming back to the House after a long day at the hospital to a giftbag of candy, popcorn, and chocolate. It was a sweet (pun intended) way to end a hard day! It is the little things that got us through Rowan’s time at McMaster and this little gesture made a big impact.
As a family who has directly benefited from the services of the Ronald McDonald House, we witnessed the impact of that giving firsthand. We know the power and the meaningful difference each contribution, whether a large donation or a small round-up, has for families facing medical challenges. Fundraisers and donations provide a sense of community and connectedness, and we deeply appreciate the kindness of individuals and businesses who come together to support families like ours in times of hardship.
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