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What Staying at the Ronald McDonald House Is Like as a Parent of a Child With a Life-Threatening Health Condition

We were all staying at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, caring for our children. Some of our children were inpatient with siblings at the house while others were getting treatments in the outpatient day clinics and were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House in the evenings. We were a group of complete strangers who met under stressful conditions and happened upon the generosity of a home away from our own homes outside the hospital in which we spent our days. 

The reason we are there is often that we’re very involved parents, advocating for our children and navigating the intense complex world of medicine. We may sit with them through their medical procedures and labs, make the decisions the doctors ask of us, and try to keep our children from freaking out (even though we are usually also freaking out on the inside).

At the end of the day, we often entrust our child into the care of the overnight nurse and residents as long as our children are well enough for us to decide that it is OK to take a break. Then we may put aside our parental guilt to actually go grab dinner and try to process everything we experienced and learned — information that basically felt like we were caught out of left field.

When you sit down to eat at the Ronald McDonald House, you are often blessed with the kindness and generosity of complete strangers giving you their time and effort to create a home-cooked meal. You may share conversation and meet other families on a similar journey.

During dinner, if you have the strength to get friendly with the people sitting with you and sharing the meal, you can usually break into conversation. Although this conversation may be about your day, it’s often not a typical conversation. Inside the

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