Recently, while on a family vacation in Colorado, my father was hospitalized with chest pains and shortness of breath. The elevation change – he lives in Florida at six-feet above sea level and we were staying in Breckenridge at 10,000-feet above sea level – was too much for him to handle. He was taken by ambulance from Breckenridge to Denver, which is at 5,000-feet elevation, but the symptoms remained.
A heart cath revealed several blockages, which were then repaired. I’m happy to report that my dad is back home in Florida and feeling quite well, though I don’t expect him to make a return trip to higher elevations anytime soon.
Through this experience, I’ve found a new perspective for the work we do at Ronald McDonald House. I am extremely fortunate that my stepdaughters and granddaughter are quite healthy, and we’ve never needed to stay at a Ronald McDonald House. However, I’ve had several experiences with my wife, and now my father, that involved travel and healthcare. Certainly, these are different types of experiences than having a seriously ill child – I would never equate one to the other. But, having been in unfamiliar surroundings, far from home, and needing to figure out food, lodging and other logistics for my mother and me, I got a small glimpse of what our families go through at Ronald McDonald House.
There was not a resource like a Ronald McDonald House at our disposal, and the hospital staff didn’t offer much help. Don’t get me wrong, they took terrific care of my dad, and I’m so grateful to the doctors, nurses and others who cared for him. But, my mom and I were left to take care of ourselves, while also spending time with my dad. Fortunately, my dad’s stay at the hospital was just a couple of days, and my mom and I were able to figure things out on our own. If his stay were prolonged, I’m not sure what we would have done.
I’ve come home and back to work with a better understanding of the services that we provide at Ronald McDonald House, and an increased personal motivation to continue working hard to help deliver our mission of providing a loving, caring “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children.