From Alumni Families

When your family is in a scary situation, it’s the little things that matter most.

For Amber, it wasn’t easy when her youngest was born early. 34 weeks early, to be exact. Her baby, Evan, needed to be put on a ventilator and was rushed to Strong Hospital for close care with the nation’s top doctors. During these long, scary two weeks in the hospital, Amber stayed at Ronald McDonald House on Westmoreland Drive. During her time at The House, she felt welcome. Little things—like having a breast pump and refrigerator already in her room, a warm meal after a long day, or a ride to and from the hospital whenever she needed it—were provided by RMHC volunteers.

Her oldest daughter, Madisynn, who was 5 years old at the time, stayed with her off and on throughout the two weeks. They made her feel right at home and gave her a Beanie Baby basket to bring her a bit of happiness.

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My husband, Cameron, and I had quadruplets at 25 weeks—Cooper, Brody, Ashlyn and Kylie. They all were tiny, weighing between 1.15 pounds and 1.5 pounds.

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Our son, Jacob, was born in 2001 with a heart defect called hypoplastic left heart defect, meaning he was born without a left ventricle. When he was born at Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, we were told there wasn’t anything that could be done since Mercy at the time didn’t have a heart surgeon. As a result, Jacob was sent to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

Jacob spent his first two weeks of life at Strong whilemy husband, my daughter and I stayed at Ronald McDonald House on Westmoreland Drive until Jacob came home.

However, about four months later, in March of 2002, Jacob was back at Strong for open heart surgery and we returned to Ronald McDonald House. After Jacob’s surgery, he had a lot of complications, such as a staph infection, seizures and even a stroke. Due to the complications, we stayed at Ronald McDonald House from March until June of 2002.

When we first saw the Westmoreland Drive House, we were amazed at how beautiful of a home it was. The furnishings were beautiful and comfortable, and it was very clean inside. The House seemed well thought-out and kid-friendly. We had our 7-year-old daughter with us, so it was important that she could be comfortable, as well. The House had games and toys for her to play with that helped take her mind off of the hospital.

Everyone was so kind and caring during our stay and did everything in their power to make it feel like a home away from home. It was so nice to have a place to stay instead... Read More

In September 2010, close Ronald McDonald House friend Brooke delivered her baby boy six weeks early. While she and her family experienced long days and scary nights, they knew baby Garrett was in the most capable hands with the Rochester-area doctors who were doing everything they could to bring him to health.

Brooke and her family stayed at Ronald McDonald House for seven of the 12 long days Garrett was in the NICU before coming home, resting and happy together as a family living their everyday lives.

But five years later, the family faced a similar struggle. Baby Layton was born 10 weeks early and faced a six-week NICU stay, including three weeks at Strong Hospital before moving to Rochester General Hospital. Brooke and her family returned to Ronald McDonald House for two full weeks. Together, the family worked long and hard until Layton built up the strength to join the rest of his family at home.

Today, Garrett and Layton are healthy, happy and, according to their mom, rambunctious boys! It took two special stays at Ronald McDonald House make the impossible possible.

During both stays, Brooke lived at the House on Westmoreland Drive. “The house was gorgeous. It’s roomy, calm, peaceful and inviting,” she said. “There is so much panic and beeping at the hospital, so I cherished the quiet the House gave me.”

Little things one might take for granted were a treasure for Brooke during her stay—like always having food on the table,... Read More

My wife, Kathryn, and I found out we were pregnant in January 2015. One of the first things we saw when we first went for an ultrasound was my daughter’s heartbeat. They commented about how it was a great, strong heartbeat, especially at eight weeks.

Evelyn was born in September 2015, and she was definitely a feisty one. She looked completely normal, just like any other baby. We ended up going back to our room to recover, and when we were in there, someone called us on the phone and mentioned that she had a heart murmur. They said it’s probably nothing to worry about because a lot of babies are born with them and they just outgrow them.

Later that day, we found out she had a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. At that time, it was like a bombshell. It was the happiest day of our life and then bam! You don’t expect that after hearing that everything was looking good. The doctor told us she was going to need to have open-heart surgery.

Her surgery ended up happening mid-January 2016, and that’s when we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House Within the Hospital. We’d known people who had stayed at RMHC before, a family friend and my wife’s sister, but you never think you’re going to have to use it.

It gave us peace of mind that we were only a couple of minutes away from our daughter while she was in the PICU. We had a bed to sleep on and could wake up in the middle of the night and be down to check on her in a couple of minutes.... Read More

In October, my daughter Natasha was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia. She was in Albany Med and they decided the best course of treatment for her was a bone marrow transplant. We did find out her little sister Sophie was a 10 out of 10 match. Wonderful news for us.

Natasha had her care transferred over to Strong Memorial in December and that’s when we started staying at Ronald McDonald House. They told us to expect to stay at least two months.

When we arrived, we were introduced to Charlie. We had never been to RMHC and really didn’t have any clue as to how it was run or how anything happened. Charlie gave us a big tour so we could feel at home and when we came back, we knew what we were doing. He showed us around the kitchen, where we could store our own food, and where the laundry room and our room were. He just made us feel comfortable.

It was so nice to come back from the hospital and not have to worry about what you’re going to make for dinner. You have so many other things running through your mind and are worried because you had to leave your child, so it was just nice to not have to think about the everyday normal chores. It was nice to be able to just relax for a minute.

Ronald McDonald House became our family—Cher, Charlie, Bonnie, Stefanie and Pat are just a few who really helped me. They always asked how I was doing and seemed to know if I was having a bad day. They would give me a hug and give me a pick-me-up. They were... Read More

I live in Beaverton, OR, with my 15-month-old son, 9-year-old daughter and husband. My son was born in November 2015 with something called Peter's Anomaly, rendering him blind at birth and with pulmonary valve stenosis of the heart. After multiple visits with the eye clinic here, we were told that Carson's eyes were too malformed to try surgery and that, although he could see light, the doctors were not sure how long that would last.

Fast-forward a few months and I met a lifelong friend online (through a support website) who led me to Dr. Aquavella at the Flaum Eye Institute. After sending him Carson’s records, they were confident they could potentially give our son sight. As a result, in mid-April 2016, we flew into Rochester for a 10-day stay and here we are almost a year later with a few Rochester visits under our belt, and my son has vision—great vision, actually!

When I first saw Ronald McDonald House, it was so welcoming and felt like home. The first day, I was met by other parents going through similar things with their children and it just put my nerves at ease before Carson’s surgeries.

My friend who led me to Rochester and RMHC in the first place was there during my first stay, so she introduced me to some pretty amazing women who helped me through our stay. Bonnie and Cher were my go-to gals in my time of need and could answer any questions I had about the house or the town itself. Not to mention, they loved my baby and made me feel like... Read More

I have twins, Charlie and Kadymarie. When I was 26 weeks, I went into labor. Charlie’s water broke, and I didn’t even realize it was happening. Being a first-time mom, I didn’t necessarily know what to expect. I was told I wouldn't be able to have children and four months later I became pregnant with twins naturally.

I had called my doctor at 26 weeks because I was having bad back pain. When I went in, I honestly expected her to come back and say, “This is normal, you are pregnant with twins, you are 26 weeks and they are lying on a nerve in your back.” But then she told me I was dilated and in active labor. They stopped the labor, but then it became a waiting game because I could have gone back into labor at any point. Luckily, we got to stop it and I lasted exactly a month. I was hospitalized the whole time because my son’s water was broken and that becomes risky with infection. I went into active labor at 30 weeks and they were born the next day.

Once the babies came, the biggest issue was being near my kids, as I knew they would be in the NICU for a period of time. The doctor told me that I needed to get in Ronald McDonald House because I lived an hour away, and my husband had to go to work. Plus we only have one car.

My son was in the NICU for 37 days and my daughter was there for 43, and unfortunately, they did not come home together. That was worse than leaving the hospital with neither. My whole mind was “they have each other.” That is what... Read More

My daughter Annalise was born prematurely at Rochester General Hospital at 36 weeks and two days. At that time, we started to do the genetic testing for Down Syndrome. We spent five weeks in the NICU there and she had a lot of different feeding issues. A few weeks after we came home, she had a reaction to her two-month shot—she started vomiting and going downhill. At this point, we had been diagnosed with her heart condition and we knew something was wrong, so we took her to Strong.

We had our consult with the GI, pediatric cardiology and the entire team. At that point, I was in a room with her, but we were notified of the Ronald McDonald House because they knew we would be there for a couple of weeks. They did the testing and that is when her Hirschsprung disease was diagnosed. We spent three weeks in the hospital and that was when we started using the Ronald McDonald House. We have a 2-year-old son, Braxton, so he was able to use the sibling clubhouse and I usually stayed with her in her room, but Ronald McDonald House was great—they brought meal vouchers to the room so we didn’t have to worry.

My husband and I would just go up there and sit and eat dinner and watch TV away from the wires and everything. We spent three weeks there and then we went home—that was about August or September. Annalise ended up back in the hospital for another few days and then we came home. In November, she had her open-heart surgery. That is when we used the House Within the... Read More

I went in to labor at 29 weeks. Until that point, the pregnancy was going well—there was no sign of history, no sign of anything, and I just spontaneously went in to labor. We live in Canandaigua and I was planning to have her at Thompson Health, so I started there and they said she was probably coming that day, so they sent me right up to Strong. They were able to give me the steroid injections for her lungs to develop and they did an ultrasound—they said she was probably around 3 pounds.

They were able to hold off Arie being delivered for three days, just to keep her in there as long as possible. However, it got to the point where it would be more beneficial to deliver her—with my water being broken for more than 48 hours and I kept dilating, but nothing was really happening. I had her November 19, and she was just 3.5 pounds and 14.5 inches long.

I remember they immediately just took her away. They wheeled her out in her little incubator. We never had anyone in our family with a baby who had to be admitted to the hospital, so the NICU was a completely brand-new experience.

I had heard about Ronald McDonald House, but I didn’t know what it was about. Once we were discharged, we went over there. Someone showed us around and I just remember the warmth of the person. We immediately got set up with a room, she showed us the kitchen and the layout of everything. I think the next day we just went home and packed a suitcase and came back and we stayed... Read More

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