We've all heard of Ronald McDonald House. Their Houses provide a ‘home-away-from-home’, offering families a safe haven to retreat to after a long day on the ward.
Established in 1989, Ronald McDonald House Charities New Zealand supports over 4,000 families throughout New Zealand each year.
Last year, 219 families from Tauranga and the Western Bay travelled to Auckland Ronald McDonald Houses. With a total of almost 1,400 nights of accommodation needed throughout the year, the Ronald McDonald Houses keep families close during their children’s medical journeys.
When new parents Anton and Kayla welcomed their little boy Jai into the world, the Tauranga family had no idea they’d be spending over seven years at the Ronald McDonald House.
Back in 2011, Kayla was getting her toddler Jai ready for bed, when he began drawing in air and struggling to breathe. She and her husband Anton rushed him to Tauranga Hospital where doctors found that his airway was covered in a growth. What was supposed to be the size of a two-dollar coin was a needle point. Jai needed specialist surgery at the National Children’s Hospital in Auckland.
“Anton went with Jai in the ambulance. I shoved everything in the car and drove up to Auckland with our daughter Portia, who at the time was just a few weeks old.”
On the way to Auckland Kayla stressed thinking what the next days or weeks might look like for their little family. What was going to happen to Jai? Where would they stay? How would they afford it?
“We were pretty young, I would’ve been 20 and Anton was 23. Anton had just been made redundant, we had a toddler and a new-born and just couldn’t have afforded to pay for accommodation in Auckland,” remembers Kayla.
Her worries were put at ease when she was told the whole family could stay at Ronald McDonald House, right next to the hospital. “We settled in right away, it was so helpful having a base.”
Although Jai’s surgery was a success, he needs surgery every 4-6 weeks to trim back the growth in his airway. The family stays at Ronald McDonald House every time and Kayla says having the whole family together has been crucial. “It means we can all support each other, and having us around makes Jai feel like he isn’t alone.”
TECT funding was requested back in 2017 to assist with the conversion of the temporary library in Ronald McDonald House Grafton Mews into another family suite. Additional TECT funding was signed off this year to upgrade the security system at Grafton Mews; ensuring the safety and protection of resident families and their belongings.
TECT General Manager Wayne Werder says TECT were more than happy to help ensure there was more space, and safety, for Tauranga and Western Bay families staying at Ronald McDonald House.
“The Houses are so important for the families that use them; they’re a space for children receiving treatment to get some family time away from the hospital. It’s paramount these families have a place to stay and can feel safe in that space—we are proud to be a part of making that happen.”
To learn more about Ronald McDonald House Charities New Zealand, visit www.rmhc.org.nz