Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Our 'home away from home'

I think it is about time I told you in more detail about the wonderful support given to us by Ronald McDonald House. When we first considered the idea of Erin's Gift, Ronald McDonald House were the first charity that we wanted to raise money for. We wanted some way to try and thank them for the incredible kindness they showed to us and trying to help them help other families seemed like a good way of doing this.

Little Erin was transferred to Alder Hey Children's Hospital when she was 27 hours old. I was unable to go with her intially due to my own medical needs and it was 9 hours before I was able to join her there. This was 9 hours of being 60 miles away from my precious baby girl and it was horrendous. When I finally reached her and was able to hold her in my arms again I knew that I couldn't bear to be apart from her like that again. Therefore, it was an incredible relief to find out that a charity called Ronald McDonald House could provide us with free accommodation on site at Alder Hey whilst Erin was a patient there.

Our first night at Ronald McDonald House is a bit hazy - I was still in shock at what had happened and the fact that Erin was most probably going to require heart surgery. I remember my husband showing me where our room was, with our private bathroom. We also had our own space in the freezer and the fridge and a secure cupboard in which to keep our groceries. I was amazed and very grateful. I had never heard of Ronald McDonald House before and it just seemed so incredible to me that such a charity existed. I honestly cannot begin to imagine what we would have done without them.

The nursing staff caring for Erin were always very kind to my husband and I and encouraged us to return to Ronald McDonald House at night to get some rest. I have to admit that not much sleeping happened, but generally we would return to our room for around 7 hours at night. Leaving Erin at these times was hard, but we understood that we needed to keep ourselves as strong as possible for her and the potentially long road that we had ahead of us. If we had not been able to stay in a room only minutes from Erin's ward, I am unsure what we would have done. I know that I could not have returned home and been so far away. This means our options would have been restricted to sleeping on a chair, in the car or trying to find a hotel/friend nearby. As it was, in the 3 weeks that Erin was at Alder Hey I never had to be more than 5 minutes from her side. - I am so grateful for this.

At the time we didn't know we would have such a short time with our little girl - we thought we would have our whole lives with her. It is since she has passed away that the true value of the support that Ronald McDonald House provide has dawned on me. Each and every memory I have of Erin is precious - the early morning feeds; her first bath; watching her for hours as she slept; long sleepy cuddles. I know that if we had not been able to stay as near to her we would not have been able to spend as much time with her and these memories which I now hold so dear would be much less in number.

Erin was critically ill for the last two weeks of her life and required a number of emergency surgical procedures in the night. As we were so near to her ward, the nursing staff were always able to phone us when this happened and we were able to rush to her side and give her a kiss before her surgery. There was not much we could do for our lovely girl at these times and being able to give her a kiss and whisper words of encouragement and love in her ear was incredibly important to us. Had we needed to stay in a hotel or with a friend, I am sure that we would have not made it to her bedside in time to do this.

I hope I have managed to express how valuable the support that Ronald McDonald provide is. We stayed with them for a relatively short time, but there were families there with us who had been there for months and months. I can only imagine how much this means to the poorly children as well as to their parents. I truly believe that the work Ronald McDonald House do gives strength to families at a time when they need all the strength they can find.

Please visit the website for Ronald McDonald House to find out more about what they do http://www.rmhc.org.uk/about/. It costs them £25 per night to provide accommodation and support to one family and they support hundreds of families every night. Furthermore they are in the process of building more houses at more children's hospitals. Their aim is for there to be free accommodation for families at every specialist children's hospital in the UK.  If you wish, you can visit our fundraising page to make a donation to support them in memory of Erin http://www.justgiving.com/Erin-Clancy. Thank you very much - every pound will help make a difference.

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