Our family was devastated when we were told our 9 month old daughter may not survive her rare illness. We were lost. It's because of this incredible charity [Ronald McDonald house Charities Southwestern Ontario] that our family was able to stay close to our baby girl as we helped her fight and beat the odds.
Ryan, Jaron, Hudson (7 yrs), Mason (4 yrs) and Olivia ( 1 yr)
When Olivia was 9 months old she became extremely irritable. She went from being a very happy, busy and outgoing baby to crying all the time. She would scream when you tried to get her to sit down and she had stopped crawling. She was either sleeping or crying – this was not our Olivia. We took her to our local Hospital where they ran many tests but couldn't figure out what was wrong. They then sent us to Stratford Hospital where we saw two Pediatricians. They ran more tests and still not sure what was going on. Working in a Veterinary Clinic for over 10 years, when they told me her white cell count was elevated I knew to ask what type of white blood cells. The minute they told me I instantly knew what was causing my baby such discomfort - parasites. Memories of four weeks earlier came straight to mind; Olivia received a serious bath after crawling outside and coming in contact with feces! She seemed OK so we thought nothing more of it – after all, kids put stuff in their mouths all of the time. Once they saw the Parasite had made its way into her spine we were rushed to London Children's Hospital where we were told horrific news: Olivia’s chances of survival were very low. She had an extremely rare Parasitic Meningitis from a Roundworm and there had only been 20 confirmed cases in the world –now 21. They rushed her down for a full MRI which turned into the longest hour our lives. Our baby girl had suffered severe brain damage from the Parasite migrating and she had suffered vision loss in her left eye from the result of a damaged nerve. We were beyond devastated. This is where we learned about the Ronald McDonald House. We didn't live close but wanted to be able to be with our daughter as much as we possibly could. This seemed impossible with two boys at home that needed us too. The next day we got a call from the House and went to find this new, wonderful place we would now call our “home-away-from-home”.
Helpful? Everything! The night we were rushed to London we had no idea we wouldn't be going home for 34 nights. They had everything we could ever need, big and small - from daily needs like toothbrushes and shampoo to a private bedroom with a comfortable bed. Considering we had no idea what to expect walking through the front door we were amazed by the huge kitchen, generous volunteers preparing delicious meals and fresh baking, even the fresh coffee seemed like it had been prepared with extra love and care. We also really appreciated all the fun things that our boys could do when they would stay so they could be with us and their baby sister; they had a really hard time dealing with the potentially of losing Olivia and being away from us so much. Being able to come and spend time at RMH London was great for them– next to making the short walk over to the hospital to see their sister, the outdoor playground was a favourite activity!
When the House hosted special events like the Petting Zoo it made it feel like we were taking the family out, even though we couldn’t take Olivia far from the hospital.
When Olivia was able to leave the hospital for an hour or two we would have meals at the House rather than in her hospital room. The families we ate meals with soon became friends who understood what we were going through. The sense of “normal” the House provided was helpful; little things like giving Olivia baths in our RMH bedroom bathtub made a huge difference in getting her used to being in a home environment again. When the House hosted special events like the Petting Zoo it made it feel like we were taking the family out, even though we couldn’t take Olivia far from the hospital.
We were told back on May 27th, 2017 it was likely Olivia wouldn't make it through the night. We feel so thankful to have her with us today. It wasn't known if she would be able to sit, crawl or walk or talk. Today she can sit well on her own and has even learned to crawl again (Just this past few weeks she started!). She has learned to say Mama and is making a few sounds. We are hopeful she will continue to develop and are excited to watch her.
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