My name is Madison Duncan, and this is my Ronald McDonald House story. On April 27, 2013, my life changed in a profound way. I went to bed a healthy 13-year-old and woke up the next morning, and within an hour and a half, I became paralyzed from the waist down. After 17 days at Vanderbilt Hospital, the doctors diagnosed me with Transverse Myelitis.
This led to the realization that my family and I were starting a journey of research, recovery, and rehabilitation. We knew that whatever we were about to face, we wanted to do it together, and as close as possible to our home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Also, we knew quality and variety of care were critical, so I transferred to Frazier Rehab Institute in Louisville. My family and I understood my therapy would be intensive, but we did not really know how long it would take.
Almost immediately after arriving at Frazier Rehab, they connected us with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kentuckiana. This would begin a four-year relationship with the House, the volunteers and staff, and many other families facing similar medical challenges.
During my five-week inpatient stay at Frazier Rehab, my family stayed at the House so they were with me during treatment and therapy. Afterwards, I was transferred to outpatient care and moved into the House with them. For the first year, we were away from home for 220 days.
Over the next three summers, my family and I stayed at the House while I continued my extensive rehabilitation.
For hundreds of days, we never had to worry about a meal, where to do laundry, where to take a shower, or where to lay our heads. We had one focus and that was getting me the care I needed.
Sure, I had to do a lot of hard things while I was there, but I never had to do them alone. Our family built strong relationships with a group of families and children facing similar challenges. We laughed together, we cried together, we supported each other, and we were always ready for a game of Uno. As the oldest of the “Frazier kids”, I was able to encourage the younger kids, and they in turn gave me strength because they looked up to me.
While that time in our lives was chaotic, and we don’t remember every detail, we do remember the relief and the community that the House provided us. While I was battling a life-changing medical condition, my parents were battling the insurance company and making sure that I had the support that I needed to keep going.
Looking back now as I am in my early 20’s and soon to graduate from college, I can’t imagine going through what has been the scariest and one of the hardest times in my life without the support of the Ronald McDonald House in Louisville. They gave our family so much more than a hot meal and a comfortable space. Those basic things made such a difference, but there are so many more layers to what the House meant and continues to mean to my family. While staying at the House, we made friends who have become like family. Not everyone gets to spend their summers with kids from Australia and Ireland. Although I miss spending time at the House, I have taken all of the memories and the friendships that we’ve built over the years with me.
I hope to pursue a career in Therapeutic Recreation after being inspired by my therapy, and all the therapists who took care of me and all the kids from the House. I hope I can honor what they did for us by paying it forward to others.
In looking back at my time at the Ronald McDonald House, I realized we were right where we needed to be. The House gave my family more than basic necessities, it changed our lives for the better. The Ronald McDonald House hasn’t just changed our lives; it has touched the lives of thousands of families for more than 35 years. This year and beyond, there will be more families who need the relief and community the House gave my family. There will be children who will need their family with them as they face therapy and treatment like me.
But, I need your help to make sure RMHCK is there to be more than a house for them.
Today, please consider supporting families by making a donation. You will help keep families like mine together when they need each other the most.