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The McCartney Family

The McCartney Family, Larbet

2013-07-25 19.21.51When our son Tom arrived into the world on the evening of 4th November 2012, we had no idea the massive journey he had in front of him, or the change this would bring in our lives . Tom was born with a number of medical issues including a heart defect, respiratory problems and a missing oesophagus. None of these problems were detected at our ante natal scans so we were completely shocked when the doctor came to speak to us the next day. We lived literally 5 minutes drive from our local hospital, which had not only made my check up appointments and ante natal classes much easier to get to, but we had also joked that I would be sending my husband Colin home to make me dinner while I was in hospital to avoid the inpatient food. But all of that, plus any sense of what is normal and expected when you have a baby, disappeared when the doctors told us Tom was to be transferred to Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow in a couple of hours and would likely be there for a number of weeks.

My head was bursting, my hormones were screaming at me and every cell in my body felt sore when they took Tom away in the ambulance. We were confused and emotional and very worried about our baby as he was facing his first major surgery at just over 36 hours old. But secondary to that were the practical worries when we realised we were not allowed to stay on the ward with Tom while he was in intensive care. Our tiny baby was seriously ill, I was recovering from a caesarean section and couldn’t drive or walk any distance, and we lived 25 miles away. How would we travel back and forth to Glasgow every day? Could we ask family to stay with them? How would we afford the petrol costs? What would we do for sleeping and eating when we wanted to spend all our time at the hospital? What if there was an emergency, would we get there in time? It was just too much to take in and process on top of everything else.

Tom was admitted to the Neonatal intensive care ward in Yorkhill. When we arrived on the ward, the nurse explained the staff had put in a request for us to stay at Ronald McDonald house. I recognised the name from popping pennies in the collection tins when buying a McDonalds, but I had no idea where the money went. The nurse confirmed a few hours later we had been given a room and could go across to meet the house manager that afternoon. She gave us directions and when we walked out the hospital and saw the big sign for the house just across the road, I realised we would literally be minutes walk away from Tom. We were told we could stay as long as Tom was in hospital and it was free. We went home to pack up our things and moved in, and the sense of relief was enormous. At least this was one huge thing taken care of amongst all the other worries and stress.

And so Ronald McDonald House became our new home. Tom faced surgery after surgery, complication after complication, the weeks turned into months. Still the House was there at the end of each day to try and make something to eat and grab some sleep, helping us stay strong for Tom who was in intensive care for 6 months. We ended up staying at RMH for almost 7 months, taking Tom home for the first time on 22nd May 2013. After 3 months amazing months at home, he became unwell again and needed more time in intensive care, more surgery and another 3 month stay in hospital. Again Ronald McDonald House was there for us, giving us a bed and somewhere close to Tom when things were at their most difficult. There were several times where the hospital had to call us over in the middle of the night because Tom had become very unwell, and we were able to be there in minutes. There were points we were told he might not make it, he went through a dozen surgeries, some taking over 10 hours, we spent countless hours by his beside and in waiting rooms, we had meetings with doctors and specialists… it was exhausting. I do not think we could have functioned and been able to be there for Tom if it wasn’t for the space we had across the road at RMH, never mind the financial impact of having a 50 mile round trip every day.

In total we spent nearly 200 days of the first year or so of Tom’s life staying at Ronald McDonald House, including Tom’s first Christmas and his 1st birthday… It felt so familiar it was almost strange going home! One of the biggest surprises was that the House at Yorkhill doesn’t get any funding from McDonalds itself – as one of 3 independent houses in the UK they rely on McDonalds staff in restaurants across Scotland who organise special events and collections to go direct to them, as well as many fundraising events throughout the year they organise themselves. In Christmas 2013 we asked friends and family to donate to the House rather than buy Tom Christmas presents to say thank you. Thanks to the generosity of so many lovely people we raised over £1,750, and Tom now has his own leaf in the donation tree in the hallway of the House, which we are very proud of. If you do get the chance to take part in or donate to a fundraising event for the Yorkhill Ronald McDonald House, please give generously, as it keeps mummy’s and daddy’s close by to children when they are very unwell and need their family the most.