1) We are both ClubMom bloggers. Did you notice? In the sidebar? There’s a new name in the MomBlog lineup: the Duchess Diaries. Sarah Ferguson—that’s right: Fergie—has joined the club. She is going to blog her adventures as she tours several countries for World Children’s Day to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. (See #3.)
2) We have both made public appearances at the Country Glen Shopping Center on Long Island. Mine was a booksigning at the Barnes & Noble, and Fergie’s was (I think) at the Weight Watcher’s there.
3) We are both big fans of the Ronald McDonald House. I’m one of those people whose burden was made lighter, more bearable, by the existence of the sanctuary that is the Ronald McDonald House. And not just once: many, many times. When Jane was first diagnosed with leukemia in 1997, the RMH next door to her children’s hospital was the only place I could go to grab a shower. For nine months—nine!—I slipped over to the House a couple of times a week for a hot shower and a snack. The folks who ran the house always had fresh-baked cookies waiting on the counter, and there were large refrigerators stocked with milk and juice and all sorts of other things.
Families who were staying there long-term would cook dinner in the communal kitchen, using the groceries provided by the House staff, and everyone shared the leftovers. The House was a place of refuge from the overpriced fast food available in the hospital lobby, a place to do laundry, a place to meet other moms and dads and children who were going through rocky times themselves.
Rose was born in the summer of 1998, months after Jane had finished the high-dose, in-patient part of her treatment and we were back at home in our Queens apartment. But just four days after Rose’s birth, Jane spiked a fever and had to be re-admitted. She developed a serious case of pneumonia and wound up spending two weeks in the hospital. Two weeks! I felt torn in two. I was nursing a newborn and couldn’t leave her, but how could I stay away from my little Jane?
Up to that point, I had slept beside her in her hospital bed for every night of every admission. This time, it was Scott who stayed with her at night. I couldn’t bear to be too far away, though. The nurses reserved me a room at the Ronald McDonald House. Tiny Rose and I spent our nights there, just across the parking lot from Scott and Jane. Every morning I hurried next door to the hospital and spent the day bouncing between Jane on the cancer ward and Rose in a small library room just down the hall, where the bighearted nurses had fixed me up a little nursery with a rocking chair and bassinet borrowed from Maternity. And every morning on my way out the door, the nice Ronald McDonald House manager stopped me at the threshold and insisted that I grab a bite of breakfast before I took up my post at the hospital.
You see, the House is more than just a place to sleep; it’s a place where the families of sick children are nurtured, just as they in turn are nurturing their little ones. Scott and I stayed at another Ronald McDonald House in December of 2003, when our Wonderboy was born and surprised us all by requiring surgery right away. My folks were at home with our girls, and Scott and I found ourselves back on familiar ground, even though now we were in a different state. The room itself was a comfort to me. It reminded me of ordeals we’d survived before, and helped me believe we’d get through this one all right too. Because the House was just down the road from the hospital, I was able to go back and forth to the NICU every few hours to nurse my baby boy, and still manage to squeeze in a little much-needed sleep.
Some families must travel great distances to reach a good hospital, and paying for long-term hotel stays could quickly put them into financial peril. The extenuating expenses of having a child with serious medical needs can be frightful. At the RMH, families pay a nominal fee if they can afford it. It’s far less than a hotel bill.
And the House is far more than a hotel. There is peace and cheer within its walls. There is rest, and hope, and help.
That’s why I’m so glad to know someone like Fergie is speaking out on its behalf, and I’m proud to be in her company here at ClubMom.