Imagine being the parent of a hospitalized child, living your life out of a hospital room, perhaps waiting for your child to receive treatment, recover from surgery or simply heal. If you’ve been there, you know how stressful and challenging living out of a hospital room can be – doctors & nurses coming at all hours, your privacy diminished, living on an emotional roller coaster while your child’s wellness hangs in the balance.
Phil & I have been there – a week after bringing our new born Hannah home from the hospital, we were sent back, told that she had a viral infection and that she would need around the clock care. Our world was turned upside down. As young parents, we were already anxious to do everything right. As young parents of a sick newborn, we were stricken with anxiety and worry. Our new normal became sharing a twin bed while Hannah slept in a bassinet near by. I was able to order meals from the cafeteria since I was nursing, but Phil depended on food we brought in from home. Kindly nursing staff allowed us a small area in their refrigerator to store lunch meat and milk. Getting back home to check in or take a hot bath was difficult, as an hour long commute often left us with an hour or so to be at home before we needed to check back in with doctors or take over for family who would stop by to stay with Hannah. 21 days later, we were released and sent home, thankful for a healthy child, but scarred from the experience. I’ve never forgotten how I felt in that hospital room, how I became desensitized to the janitor stopping by while I nursed Hannah, exhausted from the constant ups & downs of her condition and grateful for any family that visited and provided us with a needed distraction from our worry.
When Jacquie from Cleveland Kiddos & the Ohio Blogging Association contacted me to ask if I wanted to help cook a meal for the parents staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland, I said yes without thinking about it. If I could help bring a bit of normal, if only by helping cook a meal for the parents and families staying at the House, I’d be happy to do so. The Ronald McDonald House is a unique and wonderful facility nestled in Cleveland, a 55 bedroom home for families with children receiving treatment at the nearby hospitals in the city. This is not a hotel, but a warm and inviting house that tries to provide families with a sense of home while their children are hospitalized. Two kitchens provide the residents with the chance to cook their own meals, but the House also has volunteers that cook or donate a meal each afternoon and night. Jacquie organized a menu for us to prepare and the blogger group showed up to help prepare fruit salad, homemade macaroni and cheese and breaded chicken. For a team of people that didn’t know each other very well before Monday night, we pulled together and managed to prepare a homecooked meal for about 80 people. Not too shabby for some amateur chefs.
While visiting the House, we received a tour from Communications Manager Laura Klingler Doyle and learned of the many resources it takes to keep the House running. Families are asked for $20 per night that they stay at RMH; however, 50% of the families that stay are unable to pay that amount, primarily due to the enormous financial burden that they are already facing with treatment or hospitalization. On average, it costs about $500 to provide dinner alone to the 55 families residing in the house. Volunteers and donations keep RMH alive and running. There are many ways to help outside of cooking for the families – visit www.rmhcleveland.org to find out how.
As our evening came to a close, we provided the families with cupcakes, frosting and decorations so they could enjoy decorating their own desserts. One young girl took frosting and gel and carefully wrote the word “Hope” on one of her cupcakes. It’s difficult to imagine the difficulty she faces, but I’m grateful that an organization like RMH provides her and her family with a place to call home while she receives treatment and that my family & fellow bloggers could help bring hers just a small bit of peace.
Visit the blogs of the other volunteers from that evening (not all pictured above) for some great reading on cooking, fitness, family and, of course, Cleveland.