My name is Patricia Rintjema. My family and I are from Kitchener, Ontario and we stayed at RMHC SCO for nearly 300 nights, over countless visits since May of 2015.
In 2015, I found out I was pregnant with twins! As you can imagine, my husband and I were so excited to begin this new journey. Following my 20-week anatomy scan, I went into my doctor’s office for a routine follow-up... that’s when excitement started to become worry. He shared with me that there were some “inconsistencies” in my ultrasound, which included a potential “blip” on one of the babies’ spines, and some atypical femur measurements. He recommended we go to Mount Sinai for a more thorough ultrasound.
Several weeks later, at Mount Sinai, it was confirmed to us that “Baby B” had a spinal curvature, extremely short femurs, an atypical head shape, and a duplex collection system in his kidney. We didn’t know what this meant yet for our baby but knowing something wasn’t “right” was incredibly scary.
I went home and I sobbed into my pillow. I wasn’t prepared to have a child with disabilities. How could I support him? What would his quality of life be? What would my quality of life be? I blamed myself - did I do something to cause this? It was one of the hardest days of my life.
Fast forward to 28 weeks, my twins were born spontaneously. We had left the house in such a big hurry, I hadn’t even had time to grab my cellphone. We were immediately transported to McMaster Children’s Hospital and shortly after we’d arrived in Hamilton, we realized that we were likely there for a little while.
My husband was referred to RMHC SCO the first day I was in the hospital - “it’s like a hotel!” He described the rooms, the kitchen, but all I could think about was having to leave my babies behind. I had heard about RMHC previously, I’d seen the commercials and lived nearby during my undergrad at McMaster, but I’d never been inside.
If RMHC SCO wasn’t an option for my husband and I, we would have commuted from home over an hour each way. The cost, time, and distance from our babies would have been devastating to our family. On top of that, for the first 6 weeks following my children’s birth, I wasn’t able to drive - so I would have only been able to visit my babies around my husband’s work schedule. That would have meant seeing them for an hour or so per day, if that. We really don’t know what we would’ve done without RMHC SCO …
Being just a 6 minute walk from McMaster allowed me to spend all day, everyday with my babies. I was able to participate in their care, I learned how to be their mom, and was able to attend medical rounds and advocate for them during the 227 days we were inpatients in the NICU. We also stayed at RMHC SCO for many subsequent hospitalizations, which allowed us to step away, take a shower, have a hot meal, and keep our other child close by so we weren’t separated as a family for any longer than we needed to be.
We’ve stayed at the house dozens of times over the past 8 years, and every single time it provided a much needed respite from the Hospital for me and my family. Having a place to be alone and cry, to collect ourselves after a hard day - or a place to meet other families, going through similar experiences, who would become life-long friends - RMHC was a saving grace for me and my family.
My favourite memory from my time at the RMHC SCO was the Story Book Ball. I was able to watch my daughter have her face painted, her hair done, her nails painted, and feel like an absolute princess while we met her favourite Paw Patrol characters and had a dance party. It was the most “normal” we’d felt in a long time, and it was so great to feel as though my family could just relax for a day and enjoy some special time together.
Our first stay at RMHC SCO went from May 11, 2015 to December 11, 2015, and we’ve stayed there dozens of times since. Although these stays were some of the scariest times in our lives, the staff and volunteers at RMHC SCO still took the time to make celebration days, special. During our stays, we celebrated Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, many birthdays, and a wedding anniversary. I have a beautiful memory of my husband and I toasting with our wedding champagne glasses, with orange juice, at the House. The House made all of these days special. Specifically Thanksgiving which was especially hard for us as Spencer had gone for surgery to receive his tracheostomy just the Friday before.
Fundraisers and donations to RMHC SCO are everything to my family. My family has relied on the House more times than I can mention, and without fundraisers, none of it would have been possible. My family will always advocate for what an incredible cause RMHC is, and we will give back as much and as often as we’re able.
My family feels as though we were given so much by RMHC. We’ve stayed in Hamilton and in Toronto, with our combined stays measuring over a year. It’s impossible to quantify what the House gave to my family. In addition to giving us a place to stay, we’ve met so many incredible families who have become lifelong friends. RMHC is such an important part of our family’s story, so giving back makes us feel like we’re part of the RMHC story as well.
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