Sadie’s Smile

Sadie (Photography by RichAlan Photography)

Ever since Sadie was a baby, she had respiratory issues related to swallowing difficulties. But, because of the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, Minnesota…she never stopped smiling.

“Sadie is excited when we leave for Rochester,” said Sherry, Sadie’s mom. “Because it’s not about the clinic—it’s about the Ronald McDonald House. She associates the House with the clinic. It makes everything easier. She focuses on the House.

“She loves the staff, the activities and the playrooms. And she really loves the shuttle drivers who take us from the House to the clinic.”

And Sadie isn’t the only one.

“I cannot put into words how I feel about the Ronald McDonald House,” Sherry said. “It’s so wonderful. It’s hard for me to put it into words without getting emotional.”

Sadie (Photography by RichAlan Photography)

When Sadie was several months old, she was diagnosed with a laryngeal cleft—a rare congenital abnormality affecting the larynx and esophagus, resulting in difficulty swallowing, among other signs and symptoms. It occurs in approximately 1 in 20,000 live births and is more common in boys than girls. When Sadie was first diagnosed, Sherry was told, “It’s something we [doctors] always look for, but never see.”

But it was Sadie’s diagnosis.

“Hearing her diagnosis was difficult, but hearing it was a congenital diagnosis was even more difficult,” Sherry said. “I did a lot of questioning myself.”

In an attempt to gather additional information on next steps for Sadie, Sherry and Sadie visited several specialists, some of whom did not agree with the initial diagnosis. Sadie’s symptoms worsened and she suffered from pneumonia twice—something was definitely wrong. When Sherry was debating taking Sadie to Mayo Clinic, one of Sadie’s therapists strongly encouraged Sherry to do so.

Sadie (Photography by RichAlan Photography)

The doctors at Mayo Clinic agreed with the original diagnosis. After a great deal of testing, Sadie had surgery to repair the cleft. Seven months later she had another surgery to revise the repair.

“The doctor who did the surgery was great—it’s what he does,” Sherry said. “We were told it is his area of expertise. And it is such a unique culture at Mayo. Sadie was more than a diagnosis—doctors and nurses knew her by name. We received incredible care.

“And she’s doing very well.”

But it may not have been possible without the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester.

“I don’t know what we would have done without the Ronald McDonald House,” Sherry said. “We may not have been able to travel back and forth to Mayo Clinic. Her health was my top priority, but there were so many other challenges and obstacles.

“The House alleviated so much stress.”

Sherry knew about Ronald McDonald Houses before arriving in Rochester, but said “there is something different about the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester.”

“It’s the people,” said Sherry. “The staff is amazing—the most caring and compassionate people you could ever imagine.

Sadie (Photography by RichAlan Photography)

“I also think the volunteers don’t fully realize the impact they have on the lives of the people who stay at the House. Anything we needed—no matter what it was—volunteers would say: that’s why we’re here.

“They help make it so you can just focus on your child.”

The Ronald McDonald House of Rochester recently opened its expansion. The expanded House has 70 guest rooms and additional community spaces. It is the largest House in the state of Minnesota and one of the largest in the country and the world.

“We followed the progress of the expansion from the very beginning,” said Sherry. “It is so beautiful and will be so appreciated by the families who stay at the House.”

Sadie is doing well and has only follow-up appointments at this point.

“I can’t fully explain what the House did for my family,” Sherry said. “It’s not only the resources the house provides—it’s the other families and their stories. It’s a life-changing place.

“And if everybody everywhere was treated the way you are treated at the House…the world would be a very different place.”

Sadie (Photography by RichAlan Photography)