WHEN the phone rings to say there’s a room free in Ronald McDonald House, it’s like winning the lotto, says Cork mum of two Sylvia O’Riordan.
Sylvia’s six-year-old daughter, Lexie, has microvillus inclusion disease — her small intestine is unable to absorb nutrients so she can’t take food by mouth. Instead she’s fed at night through a vein. “She sits with us at mealtimes but doesn’t eat. She goes to her friends’ parties and just sips water,” says Sylvia.
Lexie’s condition has meant several long stays at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. “We went up last January and didn’t come home until March — they were trying to get Lexie’s electrolytes right.”
For Sylvia and husband Eddie, Ronald McDonald House is a lifesaver. Located on the hospital grounds, it has helped 3,161 families since 2004. The aim is to keep families close when a child’s seriously sick in hospital. The charity supports families whose children are the sickest, who have the furthest to travel, and whose hospital stay is the longest.
“It’s a home away from home,” says Sylvia. “It’s like a community in a small building — you know other families are going through something similar. You get out of the hospital environment for a few hours — the staff sit with you and chat, knowing you’ve been in the hospital nine or 10 hours.”
The biggest gift is that Lexie’s nine-year-old brother, Charlie, can stay at weekends. “It’s so important for him to be with us, to see his sister and to meet other families like ours. He has made loads of friends there. And the Ronald McDonald staff make siblings feel as important as the sick child.”
Staying at Ronald McDonald vastly reduces crippling accommodation costs incurred by families while a child is hospitalised. Its on-site location means Sylvia feels safe as she goes back and forth to hospital in early morning or late at night.
The charity is asking the public to support a fundraising drive for a new Ronald McDonald House which will accommodate 53 families alongside the new Children’s Hospital when it opens on the grounds of St James’s Hospital.
A national 5k #Walk4Families event takes place in various venues across the country this weekend. The walk — at a pace suitable for all family members — is designed to include everybody and features family-friendly activities/entertainment. Register at www.rmhc.ie/event/walk4families/. You can also support the charity by texting HOUSE to 50300 to donate €4.
Ballincollig Park, 2pm
The Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill, 12pm
Ballina, Belleek Athletic Club, Sunday, 3pm
Doorly Park, Sligo Town, 2pm
Piercetown, St Martin’s Pitch, 11am.
See www.rmhc.ie, follow RMHCIreland on Facebook, see the tag #Walk4Families on Twitter, or call 01-4560435 to find out about arranging a walk.