Jesus and Leamsie have two beautiful sons: Elian and Adrian. And after spending 323 nights at the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, Minnesota…they are thankful for every day they have together.
Elian, their oldest, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in early 2019. And the tumor was located in his meninges – the three membranes that envelop the brain and spinal cord. It is an incredibly rare complication.
Because it is so rare, no medical professional in their home country of Puerto Rico had ever seen such a diagnosis, let alone treated someone with the diagnosis. Jesus and Leamsie searched far and wide for better resources and medical facilities.
And it led them to Rochester.
“We arrived at Mayo Clinic with scared hearts, but full of hope,” said Leamsie, Elian’s mom. “As parents, we not only had to deal with the terrible news that our beloved son had cancer, but we were also facing an unknown medical scenario.”
Because the condition has similarities to medulloblastoma – a tumor that affects the central nervous system and is most commonly found in the cerebellum – it was treated in a similar way. Elian underwent 22 cerebrospinal radiotherapies and five chemotherapies.
He experienced numerous complications, including hydrocephalus, a condition which requires a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt to be implanted to relieve pressure on the brain from excess fluid. Elian required surgical intervention 13 times; 10 involving VP shunt revisions.
It was a long and difficult road.
And it led them to the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester.
The family received a referral from a Mayo Clinic social worker, but they were 26th on the waiting list. As they paid for the final night in a hotel that they could afford…they received a call from the House. There was a room for their entire family.
“We felt peace in that moment,” Leamsie said. “The House is a good and safe place, full of love, goodness, and wonderful people.”
But they didn’t know it would be their home for the next year.
“We were going through the worst moment of our lives,” said Leamsie. “In the House, we found an oasis where we could leave our worries: what to eat, where to sleep, where to be a family, where to find support from friends. We fell in love with the House.”
The family stayed in the newly opened expansion and was amazed by the amenities. Guest rooms, community kitchens, laundry facilities, recreational areas: “everything was spectacular.” Family centered activities and family focused volunteers and staff filled their stay with joy and love.
“Every smile made us feel welcome…when we were more than 3,870 kilometers from away from home,” Leamsie said.
Leamsie said their extensive stay allowed them to see that each dollar donated to the House “reaches where they say it does: the kids and their families.”
“Thank you to all the donors who support the House,” said Leamsie. “Our family urges everyone we know to support this beautiful cause.”
While Elian and his family received the world’s best medical care, he did not respond to treatment as well as expected. The family consulted with his doctors and decided to return to Puerto Rico to be with family for the remainder of his life.
His life expectancy at the time was six months.
“It has been nearly two years and he is still with us,” Leamsie said. “We are so thankful for every day we have with him. And we are so thankful for the year we spent together as a family at the Ronald McDonald House.”