In August 2013, our son Jovan began a five week feeding therapy at St. Mary’s Feeding Clinic in Evansville, Indiana. While my husband was able to stay the first week, Jovan and I were preparing for our stay at the Ronald McDonald House on our own.
Jovan was almost four years old. He did not know how to chew and we did not know why. We had attempted so much therapy at home which was unsuccessful, and were directed to St. Mary’s. While we were hopeful they could help us, we were incredibly scared. Five weeks away from home to start, and subsequent returns had us worried that we would feel isolated and disconnected.
What we were not prepared for was the love, support, kindness, encouragement and compassion from the administrative staff and all of the wonderful volunteers who make the House a home away from home.
A therapy session (of which there were four a day) didn’t go by without a volunteer asking my son how it was. They celebrated every single milestone with him. They were open and inviting with him, and while my son was always open and loving with my husband and me, he was reserved with everyone else. Two weeks at the House, and he was saying hello to every volunteer he saw! Whether it was helping Miss Katie get her water bottle out of the pop machine, or having a meeting in the conference room with Miss Teresa and Mr. Jeremy, Jovan opened up. I truly believe that Jovan wants to work at the front desk because of how kind every single volunteer who worked there was to him every single day.
While it was nice to have dinner prepared every night, we had to prepare something different for Jovan since he did not chew. I didn’t have to bring a single thing with me to do that. Every appliance I needed, every utensil, pot or pan was available at all times. It made the preparation of food so incredibly easy. And that took a load off my shoulders, and gave me time to spend with my son.
Our second stay was in October 2013 for three weeks. Jovan and I spent the weeks alone, and my husband joined us on the weekends. Not only did the stay provide us with the same wonderful environment, I had the opportunity to get to know a few of the volunteers and other parents who were at the House. I drew strength from those wonderful people. I found that they were a part of our journey in this life. We’ve grown to love them like family. Because that’s the way they treated us. It doesn’t matter how impressive the bricks and mortar are, it’s the people inside it that make it a home. This House…it’s a home.
In January 2014, after six months of feeding therapy and home maintenance, our son began to chew. Since that day, he has chewed every meal and snack he’s had. We’ve marveled at the progress, and we can’t believe that we’re where we are. I have to say that once a week of chewing had passed, my first thought was how excited I was to return to St. Mary’s and the House so that they people who gave us the daily love and encouragement we needed whether we were with them or here at home, could see the impact they made with my son. They lifted us up and held us close so we could do this. And I will forever remember this House as a haven for us.
We plan to return for more therapy in the future. And we can’t wait to see our beautiful friends at the House. From the safety of the House, to the wonderful team who runs it, to the volunteers who fill it with love, we are so grateful. Their imprint on our lives and our journey is forever.
Bob, Renee and Jovan Uzelac