Occasionally a story about a child in care at RMHC reaches a board member or a committee member, that tugs at the heart strings. Sometimes it is the quilter themselves that has had an experience.
One such story came through email and we felt compelled to share it with you. Thank you to Liz Shakell for taking the time to tell us and be so open with such a personal family experience. And thank you to Melody and her family for allowing us to hear the story and for rising up and giving back. You truly are heroes!
This is the story as Liz, the grandmother told us, you better grab a tissue:
When I first heard of this project quilt Canada had taken on for Canada 150, I was filled with pride and gratitude. To be part of a project that involves quilters from across Canada and now it seems from around the world warms my heart. I had another reason to hop on board. Ronald McDonald house is very close to my heart and the opportunity to give back was a project I wanted to be part of.
In January 2012, our granddaughter Melody at the age of 2 1/2 ,living in Corbeil ON was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In a moment she and her families lives were turned upside down. She was airlifted from North Bay ON to Childrens Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa. Those first days involved a battery of test and procedures including bone marrow biopsy, blood work, X-rays,insertion of a port a Cath for chemotherapy,etc. Her parents wouldn't and didn't leave her bedside.
It was at this time they were offered respite at The Ronald McDonald House right across the street from CHEO. Although they were reluctant to leave Melody even for a few minutes, it meant they could have a place to go that would offer them some comfort. A bed to sleep in was very welcoming.
They soon found out how special RMH was! They met other families going through difficulties they could talk to, a kitchen to cook in, meals that community organizations offered, laundry facilities, a living room to share, and even exercise equipment. It was home away from home.
It meant as grandparents we could travel to visit them, bring them food, offer relief at the hospital, and they had a safe place they could go to that was really close to Melody.
This was even more meaningful, when after six weeks in the hospital Melody was allowed to go "home" and that meant going to RMH. They didn't actually return to their own home in Corbeil until the end of March!
What was amazing to me, were the friends and support Melody gained during this time. She would return after a long day of chemotherapy and procedures and would ask to see her friends. They would get together and watch movies or play games . Sometimes depending on how her blood counts were she would be isolated and have to stay in her bedroom away from everyone.
On one occasion her friend Casey, who was 13 at the time and was just finishing her treatment, she knew what it was like to be isolated, so she brought Melody a little kitchen of her own she could play with in her bedroom. There are many stories at friendship and support I could share.
Melody and her family spent well over 100 nights at RMH over the course of her 2 1/2 year treatment and still spend the occasional night when they travel to CHEO for follow up.
It's really hard to explain exactly how important RMH is and what it means to families who have to be away from home and away from their children. Even though I worked in health care and knew about RMH I really didn't understand, and I really didn't appreciate how very important it becomes in the lives of these families. It really does become their home and gives them one less thing to worry about when their world is falling apart.