Family Stories

Page 2 of 13

“Enjoy All the Little Moments”

Matthew, age 4, says he wants to be a police officer when he grows up and then adds, “I have leukemia.”  His ever-inspiring mom, Robin confirms his diagnosis:   Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  She says that Matthew is “joy and light.”  They are 7 weeks into this journey that started in their hometown of Brownsville, TN.  Robin says, “He has been in God’s hands all this time.   God protected him and brought him this far.” 

 Wearing a superhero shirt and Spiderman buttons, Matthew brings plastic kitchen toys to Robin as she is interviewed.  Matthew says his favorite part of the Ronald McDonald House is the outside playground.  He also loves Bingo games at the House.   Last time, he was repeating the numbers back each time they were called.

Robin says about herself, her husband Chris , and their son Matthew, “We love all the groups that come to cook for us.  It is such a blessing that we do not have to worry about meals and have the pantry available at all times. If we were at home, we would be isolated; but here there are activities so that Matthew is not secluded.  In your weakest moment, you do not have to worry about the little things.”

“We do not look at Matthew’s cancer as a bad thing because we know we would not have been able to have these experiences and meet these people otherwise.   We have been able to meet and get to know other families here with a common bond and connection.  We are making lifelong friends with them and their kids.  We can encourage and lift others up.  If I can share my story, maybe I can encourage someone else.  Enjoy all the little moments. Courage goes hand in hand with faith and having hope.  Matthew has leukemia and a good prognosis, but my heart is with the families that do not have a good prognosis.”

Posted by Lisa Haguewood at Monday, December 18, 2017
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“We know that we are here today, but tomorrow we do not know”

Imagine living in Memphis, TN your whole life with little travel outside the country.   Suddenly, you have to leave for Peru for an indefinite time with your critically ill child.  Your Spanish is limited, and everything you know is in Memphis.

Well, that is the reverse of the experience of the Ayala family.  They lived their whole lives in Piura, Peru.   They gave up everything to come to the USA, to Memphis, TN, leaving behind school, work, career, and family.  They gave up all for their two-year-old son, Liam, who was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma.

The Ayalas had heard of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital but were not familiar with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis.  They have stayed at RMHC Memphis twice now.  Juan Carlos, the father, said, “Thank you for the help you give us day to day so that we can have happy days and forget all the bad things.”

          Thoroughout our interview, Liam listened to music on headphones.   His mother, Silvana, says that he likes country music.   In fact, she says, “One day at the hospital, the nurse gave him her cellphone, and it was playing children’s music.   Liam listened for a minute, but then threw the cellphone because he didn’t like the music.”

          Juan Carlos says, “The most difficult part of all of this was when the doctor told me that Liam would lose one of his eyes.  I fight and live every day for our son.  We know that we are here today, but tomorrow we do not know.”

           According to his parents, Liam is relaxed and happy at the Ronald McDonald House and the whole family is able to forget the Hospital for a little while.  Silvana adds, “Something we can say is that we have everything we need here at the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis .  The House is clean, with milk, the kitchen, and the pantry.  Also, the playground is big, which Liam loves. “

Special thanks for translation by Luz Vargas

Posted by Lisa Haguewood at Thursday, December 7, 2017
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Stratas Foods serves meals to the Ronald McDonald House

Stratas Foods, the leading supplier of fats and oils to the food service, food ingredients, and retail private label markets in North America - which is based in Memphis and has 115 local employees - makes monthly visits to the Ronald McDonald House to serve dinner.

One Thursday a month, the Stratas research and development facility transforms into a food prep space.  A team of eight to 10 Stratas employees prepare, transport and serve a meal at the Ronald McDonald House.   

Posted by Lisa Haguewood at Thursday, November 2, 2017
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“We Watched as Captain America Presented Josh’s Family with His Shield.”

In April of last year, 3 year-old Keith Pitre was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).  Treated in New Orleans, he went into remission.  In December, doctors there planned to remove his port, but his platelet count was extremely low. A bone marrow biopsy revealed that he had relapsed and that he needed a bone marrow transplant. In January of this year Keith and his family traveled from their home in Galliano, LA, south of New Orleans, to St. Jude for the operation.

When they first arrived, they spent 2 weeks at the Crowne Plaza and then came to Ronald McDonald House of Memphis for 2 months. “I absolutely love it here,” said Reanna, Keith’s mother.  “I did not want to stay in a hotel room again.  I kept saying ‘Try everything to get us into Ronald McDonald House.’”

 

Reanna explained well what the House means to them: “We have really enjoyed the socialization here at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis.  We are not isolated, and everyone is friendly.  Keith loves all the toys at the Ronald McDonald House, especially the train track in dining room B.   He is not real outgoing because he has autism, but he is very comfortable here at the House.”

Reanna said that everyone in the family has had to make sacrifices, including her husband, Opie. He has been out of work since December, because he did not want his wife and son in a strange city so different from the small town in which they live. He was a captain on a supply boat, and since coming to Ronald McDonald House, he has stayed busy as an all-around handyman, moving furniture and fixing things.

After recovering from the bone-marrow transplant, Keith and his the family spent time at home in Louisiana, then returned for a check-up.  An examination revealed that he has developed GVHD, a liver disease and needed to spend more time in Memphis for treatment during the summer.

During his second stay, the Hardy Pantry was dedicated. Josh Hardy’s family had raised money to dedicate the pantry in honor of Josh’s memory and legacy.  Josh loved superheroes, Captain America especially, and the dedication party had that theme, complete with people dressed as superheroes.

            Reanna said, “I told Keith I would bring him down for cupcakes, but then he saw the Super Heroes. Keith is a big fan of Batman.” Keith ran straight to the superheroes, a response to new people that he would not normally do.   “To see his face light up was amazing. Keith held on to Batman’s leg. We watched as Captain America presented Josh’s family with his shield. It was Keith’s favorite day of all.”

Reanna added, “I do not want to forget anything about the House. We have made friends with families and staff as well.  Watching my son Keith get along with all the people is something that I never thought I would see.  I did not think I would ever see him this happy.   I am never going to forget this time at Ronald McDonald House. Being here has brought a sense of home to me.  I had never been out of my small town and came to Memphis.  Here at RMHC, I feel like I am home again.”

Posted by Lisa Haguewood at Wednesday, September 13, 2017
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“She Thought They Were So Funny and Most of the Time They Were Not”

“We were on vacation in Florida.   I had a fever that would not break, unexplained bruising, and extreme fatigue every time I went outside in the heat,” said 19-year-old Tori from Pekin, IL.    

 

Tori was 5 days away from moving into college.  Instead, in August 2016, Tori began treatment for ALL, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, high risk.  The first 263 days of treatment,  Tori and her mother Tonya spent 141 at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis (RMHC Memphis). “My mom is my hero because my whole life she has given up things for me.  She took off work and stayed with me every trip we had to make to Memphis,”  Tori said.

 

Tonya said that Tori was expecting a roommate with whom she could share clothes and hang out. “She got a roommate, but it was me.  We feel the Ronald McDonald House is just like a dorm.  She enjoyed the community living and activities that the house offered.”

 

Tori said, “My favorite part of the House is how welcoming the staff is.  If you ever need something, they will stop what they are doing to help.”   

 

Tonya said, “Sherri (Director of House Operations) is always focused on working and running the house.  We got to know her and along with another family we would ask if we could cause trouble.  It became a joke every time we passed her office.”   

 

“Tori loved the candy bowl at the front desk.  She would stop by it everyday before and/or after her appointments, not for the candy, but for the Laffy Taffy jokes.  She thought they were so funny and most of the time they were not,” said Tonya.

 

Tori met a 15-year-old girl from West Virginia named Lindsey.  They became best friends and talk every day.   Lindsey is on the radiation side of treatment, and Tori is on the chemo side.  They make each other stronger and are learning how different the two treatments are.

 

At the House, Tori and Tonya loved the rocking chairs and sat in them every morning, waiting for the shuttle.  Tori really liked going to the House pantry because when she was on certain medicines, she was always hungry.   Tori enjoyed the House’s 25th year Celebration, seeing the decorated Christmas trees, decorating her room door, hiding Easter Eggs, participating in  teen activities, watching movies, and taking 3rd place in the RMHC Memphis Bad Dog 5K.

 

Tonya said, “We did not really understand what RMHC was all about before we arrived.  RMHC Memphis has really thought of everything to make the House feel like your home. I will never forget everything the House has done for our family when we were so scared about the needs and future of Tori.”

 

 “I would love to be an algebra teacher or a Child Life specialist and I never want to forget all the amazing people we have met at this House, ” Tori concludes.

Posted by Lisa Haguewood at Tuesday, June 6, 2017
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