Our family first visited the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Evansville during our first trip there in September 2010. Our son Emory, 15 months old at the time, was being evaluated for an intensive pediatric feeding therapy program at the St Mary’s Center for Children. Emory was born 12 weeks premature in July 2009 and had several health complications related to prematurity and an extended NICU stay, one of which included a feeding tube placement for nutrition. As an infant and early toddler, Emory was 100% tube fed and developed a high level of oral sensitivity that resulted in him eating almost nothing by mouth. During our first day of evaluation for the feeding program, it became clear to us that the team of medical professionals would recommend an 8 week intensive therapy program for Emory, meaning we would have a need for an extended stay in Evansville, three and a half hours from our home in west central Indiana. Before we left Evansville that day, we were introduced to the RMH and were given our first tour of the brand new, beautiful facility. We were instantly impressed with the sincerity of the staff and volunteers at the RMH as well as the wonderful “homelike” feel that the house offered. Through our experiences over the last three, we feel that the RMH is truly a “home away from home.”
Since that day, our family has returned to the RMH for six separate trips so that Emory could continue treatment through the feeding program at St. Mary’s. Our visits have ranged in length from two weeks to eight weeks and each time we return, it really does feel as if we are returning “home” to visit our RMH family in southern Indiana. There are several staff members and volunteers that have watched Emory grow and change with each visit and they are so happy to see his continued developmental improvement.
For us, the RMH is special in many ways. Not only do we have a relaxing place to spend our evenings and weekends in between very stressful weekdays attending therapy sessions, but we also enjoy the opportunity to meet other families. Having experienced a long NICU stay ourselves, we can completely relate to how other parents of premature babies go through an emotional roller coaster of spending long days in the hospital, fearing the unknown, celebrating the small milestones and hoping for small steps forward each and every day. We have also been fortunate to meet several other wonderful families whose children have similar feeding problems and are going through the same feeding therapy program as Emory. We can exchange stories and help lift each other up on the frustrating days as we help our own children learn to eat by mouth.
Our family has made several friends and memories at the RMH, including Emory being able to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus for the very first time during our visit in 2010. It is experiences like this that we will always hold special as we reflect on our visits to Evansville. The RMH has truly been a blessing to our family and we could not be more grateful for all of the support and hospitality we receive each and every time we visit.
-Beth, Scott & Emory Siple