19-month-old Robert is the healthiest he has ever been. But it hasn’t always been that way.
“When Robert was four months old, we discovered he was having issues—his eyes were cloudy,” said Betty, his mom.
The family visited the hospital in Fargo, but immediately received a Mayo Clinic referral, because North Dakota does not currently have the advancement in medicine to perform the necessary surgery for his condition. And it was deemed an emergency—Robert needed a procedure as soon as possible.
They were in Rochester within 24 hours.
“Mayo is the best hospital in the world,” Betty said. “It is where Robert needed to be.”
Robert was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma—a rare condition often associated with increased intraocular pressure and optic nerve damage. The family and team discussed all options and decided on immediate surgery because his condition was so severe.
“Our entire family was with him in the hospital,” said Betty. “It was incredible.”
The procedure was a success and he was discharged the same day. And the family checked into the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester.
The House had recently completed its expansion, resulting in 70 guest rooms and many new community living spaces.
Betty described an evening when she made dinner for her entire family while Robert and his siblings played in a Playroom. She talked about the kids making fun and creative projects in the Craft Room and the entire family enjoying the Indoor Activity Room and the Outdoor Plaza.
And described the kids laughing and smiling during Game Night and Music Therapy.
“Staying together as a family…” Betty said. “It was so special for us.”
But the House is much more than four walls.
“The camaraderie…” said Betty. “We are all experiencing medical hardships with our children. It is a very special bond. We are all in it together.
“Community is so important.”
The family stayed at the House before the COVID-19 pandemic postponed family check-ins during the summer months. Their experience with the House staff and volunteers was unforgettable.
“Everyone was so welcoming and made us feel very cared for and loved,” Betty said. “Volunteers are the heart of the House. They help in any way we need.
“They made the House our home.”
Robert and his family have been in Rochester twice since the COVID-19 pandemic postponed check-ins, but the House supported the family in other ways. The House provided activity bags and snack bags for the children and family and facilitated a reduced rate at a hotel.
“The House communicated with us and was here for us,” said Betty. “The House ensured we were cared for and made us feel very loved.
“We waved every time we passed the House, because it is our home.”
Both the expansion and the services offered during the COVID-19 pandemic are possible because of the generous donors who support the children and families of the House.
“Donors care so much and love so much,” Betty said. “They are on the journey with us. It is so beautiful that people know how important the House is for families.
“They give so much joy.”
Robert will visit Mayo Clinic every four-six months for checkups—his eyes could increase in pressure, which causes nerve damage and possible blindness. It is important for Robert to remain in close contact with his team, as he also has a genetic disorder which affects multiple organs.
But Betty knows it will all be OK…because of the Ronald McDonald House.
“He is growing so much,” said Betty. “He is thriving.
“It is so great.”
The Ronald McDonald House of Rochester is gearing up for Give to the Max Day, Minnesota’s giving holiday on Thursday, Nov. 19. Visit www.givemn.org/rmhmn for updates on Robert and to celebrate and support children and families of the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester!