Four weeks after bringing home our new baby, George,
after his birth in November 2017, my husband and I were just beginning to get over the shellshock of having a child. George was thriving, and we began to plan for our first Christmas as a family of three – we’d even got our Christmas tree up!
However, George then caught a cold, and he quickly deteriorated. He stopped feeding and became lethargic. We took him to A&E, where he was diagnosed with severe bronchiolitis. He was sedated, incubated and transferred to intensive care at the Evelina Children’s Hospital the same day. George remained at the Evelina for a month, including over his first Christmas and New Year, much of it spent in intensive care, heavily sedated.
A home away from home but close to his bedside
George’s hospital admission was every new parent’s worst nightmare. However, the care he received at the Evelina was amazing and, despite many scares along the way, we trusted the doctors and nurses to do everything within their power to ensure George made a full recovery.
But my husband and I were really struggling. Already exhausted, the stress and trauma caused by George’s hospitalisation was immense. On top of that, there were lots of practical things to organise: getting clean clothes, buying toiletries, food etc. At the same time, it was also vital to be by his bedside as much as we could, so that we could liaise effectively with the doctors and nurses looking after George.
For the first three nights, we were given a room at the hospital. While convenient, it was very cold and uncomfortable, and we struggled to get any sleep. Then we were told about Ronald McDonald House, which was a charity affiliated with the hospital offering accommodation to parents with children being treated there. We were put on the waiting list and transferred there when a room became available the next day.
Christmas with the families
Our room at Ronald McDonald House made a massive difference to our ability to cope. Just a 10-minute walk from George’s bedside, we were able to get a bit organised and sleep in shifts to ensure one of us was always with our son. Our room was warm, comfortable and had en-suite shower facilities. There was also a launderette, a common room and communal kitchens stocked with utensils.
In the evenings, home-made food was often brought in by volunteers and on Christmas Day the manager and his family even cooked Christmas dinner for everyone in the house (roughly 59 families).
Having access to all these facilities, hot evening meals, and having a comfortable sanctuary to return to, enabled us to function better during George’s hospital stay and be prepared for when he was finally discharged and in need of his extra care from his mummy and daddy.
How we give back
After all the support we were given, it was important to us to give back. We decided to cook a meal for the residents of Ronald McDonald House, as we’d really appreciated getting some home-made food during our stay.
We had a great time cooking dinner for the residents in February. We opted for Mexican food with lots of nutritious sides, as it’s easy to cook in bulk and to do veggie and meat versions – plus we got to snack on tortillas all day to keep our energy levels up. 😊
It was a really fun way to get involved with the charity and give practical help to the families staying there, who are time-poor and in dire need of some decent, home-cooked food. We had the Sainsbury’s delivery go straight to the house so it was relatively pain-free to get organised once we were there. The day wasn’t too long either – we arrived at about 10:00 and were done by 16:30.
We got to chat to a couple of families who were around, dozing on the sofas or otherwise getting themselves set up, and it was lovely to hear their stories and how helpful having food prepared was for them. We also got lots of very kind feedback notes after the meal – made my two hours of onion chopping very worthwhile!
To learn more, please visit www.ronaldmcdonaldhouse.co.uk/