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The Wassells

On November 29, 2018 my husband, Brad, and I were excited and nervous as we drove to our anatomy scan appointment to get a closer look at our identical twin daughters. The pregnancy had been uneventful so far and, with each girl having her own amniotic sac and placenta, we had the best case scenario for a twin pregnancy. Or so we thought. It was at that appointment that we learned I was already dilated to one centimeter at 23 weeks pregnant. In that moment everything changed. I was taken by ambulance from Passavant Hospital in Jacksonville to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. Within minutes of arriving, I was started on medication to help slow labor and given steroid shots to help my babies grow stronger because a premature delivery was now imminent. Luckily the girls were not delivered that night, but I was told I would spend the rest of my pregnancy on hospital bed rest at St. John’s and that we would most likely have a lengthy NICU stay. We live an hour west of Springfield, so the thought of travel added to our many worries.

To help ease our fears during the two weeks I spent on bed rest, the nurses frequently mentioned the Ronald McDonald House and the amenities it would be able to provide us after the girls were born — a free place to stay nearby that included meals and a community to support us on our journey. As fate would have it, there was another family from our town staying at RMH after also having premature twins. They confirmed everything the nurses had been telling us.

Hannah and Sadie spent 88 days in the NICU, which meant Mom and Dad spent 88 days at the Ronald McDonald House.

Hannah at one month.

Hannah and Sadie spent 88 days in the NICU, which meant Mom and Dad spent 88 days at the Ronald McDonald House.

Sadie at one month.

Our daughters Hannah and Sadie were born in the early morning of Friday, December 14 at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound 12 ounces and 1 pound 10 ounces.

The Wassells on New Year's Eve

Our daughters Hannah and Sadie were born in the early morning of Friday, December 14 at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound 12 ounces and 1 pound 10 ounces. We were advised by the neonatology team to plan on a NICU stay until our due date of March 29. That afternoon we filled out the RMH paperwork and the next morning my husband went across the street to get the room that would become our home for the next three months. As hard as it was to leave the hospital without our girls and without knowing what the coming weeks would bring, it was reassuring to know we would be sleeping across the street and could be at the hospital quickly if something were to go wrong. We wouldn’t even have to drive because there was a free shuttle to the hospital offered 24 hours a day. Thankfully, our prayers were answered many times over, and both girls had uneventful NICU stays. They simply needed to grow to get strong enough to go home. We were discharged two weeks before our due date.

As hard as it was to leave the hospital without our girls and without knowing what the coming weeks would bring, it was reassuring to know we would be sleeping across the street and could be at the hospital quickly if something were to go wrong.

Hannah giving a fist bump.

Hannah and Sadie spent 88 days in the NICU, which meant Mom and Dad spent 88 days at the Ronald McDonald House. It made a terrible situation tolerable and allowed us to focus our energies where they needed to be-with our girls. There was no driving back and forth when your mind was so clouded with other thoughts you couldn’t see straight. There was a hot meal provided every night and always leftovers when you were panicked about money and the hospital bills you knew were coming. There was always another family there who could relate to you, whether you wanted to talk about it or keep to yourself. And there was always an employee checking in to see how YOU were doing and what YOU needed.  The day we checked out of the NICU and RMH was bittersweet. As excited and ready as we were to finally move back home, we were leaving behind a new family of sorts we are forever indebted to.

I am  happy to report that Hannah and Sadie are thriving. They are meeting or are ahead all of their adjusted milestones. We are hopeful that there are no more hospital stays in our future, but it is comforting to know that we are welcome to stay at RMH if necessary.

Hannah and Saide are thriving, and we are hopeful that there are no more hospital stays in our future, but it is comforting to know that we are welcome to stay at Ronald McDonald House if necessary.

Hannah and Sadie are thriving today (10 months).

Give a Little Love® 2019

Give a Little Love Campaign

 

Give a Little Love® campaign at McDonald’s® Restaurants aims to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Central Illinois

Area restaurants provide support to children and families served through local Ronald McDonald House®

NOTE: Give a Little Love® has been extended through February 24th of 2019! 

 

CENTRAL ILLINOIS -  (January 25, 2019)—McDonald’s® Restaurants of Central Illinois and its local owner-operators will be providing support to Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Central Illinois (RMHCCI) from Friday, January 25, 2019 through Sunday, February 17, 2019 through the annual Give a Little Love® campaign.Give a Little Love® campaign at McDonald’s® Restaurants aims to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Central Illinois

To “Give a Little Love,” customers can donate $1 or more at over 90 participating McDonald’s restaurants throughout central Illinois. Customers who make a donation will have their names displayed on a paper heart in the restaurant. One hundred percent of the proceeds will stay local and benefit the families served by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois. In 2018, more than $150,000 was raised during the Give a Little Love promotion.Customers who make a donation will have their names displayed on a paper heart in the restaurant.

The Ronald McDonald House provides the necessities of home for families with a seriously ill child receiving treatment.  At RMHCCI, families can stay together and find strength in numbers during a critical time. RMHCCI provides families with a private bed and bath, meals, laundry, parking and more in order to ease the stress of a difficult time in their lives. Families stay at the House at no charge to them, regardless of their length of stay.  The Springfield House currently serves over 400 families each year, and the Peoria House, estimated to open in late 2019 is estimated to serve 700 families annually. RMHCCI depends on the generous support of the community, especially through the Give a Little Love campaign.  Support from the community is essential to keep the house running smoothly for their families.

The Ellis Family

The Ellis Family, with twins in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at HSHS St. John's Children's Hospital.

The Ellis Family, with twins in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at HSHS St. John's Children's Hospital.

After a very complicated obstetric history and subsequent losses our twins decided it was time to arrive, despite being 2 months early. Having experienced previous preterm complications, we knew what we were up against.

With over six months of bedrest that had resulted in severe muscle atrophy coupled with one twin delivering and the other twin being a c-section, I found normal daily activities such as standing for a short period of time and walking to be exhausting. It would have been impossible for me to commute 2 hours round trip to visit our babies we had longed for over many years. The nurses suggested we contact the Ronald McDonald House®, which was a true blessing.

Out of all of our trials, it was so comforting to know one thing we would not have to worry about was where we were going to stay while our daughters were in the hospital. We found the Ronald McDonald House to be one form of constant comfort in a time we felt so emotionally vulnerable due to our daughters being premature. It is extremely difficult to enter the hospital with babies and leave empty armed, a feeling we knew all too well from previous complications. But this time we had hope we would eventually leave with both our arms and hearts full. This feeling of emptiness we had felt before was fulfilled by the comfort the Ronald McDonald House offered from many different perspectives. Continue reading

2018 Holiday Wishlist

We need your help to restock our House with some special items this holiday season! You can help brighten the day of a family at the House with your gift this year! See below for items needed!
Questions? Contact Brian Replogle at br@rmhc-centralillinois.org or 217-528-3314 x147

Help up restock our House for our families this Holiday season!

Dishes break, fabric stains, items wear out... We could use your help to restock the items we regularly use! Continue reading

Raise Love for RMHCCI families!

Raise Love logo over blue paint swash

For a sick child, sometimes the best medicine of all is having family nearby for more hugs, kisses and I love you’s. At Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Central Illinois, we work to help keep families together to their children to do just that.

We can't do it alone. Through the support of other families, staff and volunteers, we can make a difference for our RMHCCI families. And, now you can help too by creating your very own fundraiser by juggling, swimming, baking, running or creating something totally new! You can do whatever you LOVE to do and raise funds #forRMHC.

So start your fundraiser, reach out to your personal network and use all your talents to help RMHC give families the gift of laughter, love and time together! Get started today at: rmhc.org/raise-love

Questions? Contact br@rmhc-centralillinois.org.

Mom and Baby

LaDage Family

In 2011, the last day of school, Darla and Todd LaDage took four-year-old Carson to the doctor because he had been showing some minor neurological symptoms. He was limping off and on and stuttering on occasion. The doctor ordered an MRI, which showed Carson had a brain tumor in the brainstem.

Just days after finding the tumor, Carson’s doctors performed brain surgery.

The surgery didn’t quite go as planned. Instead of removing the entire tumor, the doctors could only do a biopsy to explore the tumor more. They gave Carson about a week to recover before putting in a port and starting chemotherapy. The chemotherapy continued for a year. Traditionally, that is where the story would end as the type of tumor Carson has typically only requires one year of treatment. Carson’s was still growing.

Keeping Carson & Darla close to the care and resources they need

Carson was sent to Memphis for radiation treatment. This was the first time they experienced the Ronald McDonald House® (RMH) and realized the value of what the House offers families like theirs.

Carson and Darla lived at Memphis RMH for nine weeks while he received treatments. Carson’s dad Todd, sister Emma and brother Riley would all come to visit during this time –they were thankful the Ronald McDonald House was able to accommodate their family. Darla was also able to bond with other families going through similar situations while she was at the RMH.

“The friendships you make at RMH are different,” shares Darla. “When you meet people who really are going through the exact same thing, the bond is instantaneous. One of my closest friends now is someone that we lived with in 2012 at RMH. We joke that our friendship is built on butter because we started talking in the community kitchen when she asked to borrow a stick of butter. This friendship and having that community where everybody does understand, it really does help you survive it.” Continue reading

The Simmons Family

Pictured are Christine and Adam Simmons with their daughter Harper and a photo of their son Bowden. The Simmons Family are RMHCCI Ambassadors & Spokespersons for the Peoria House Build.

In February 2016, while living in the suburbs of Chicago, life seemed perfect for the Simmons family. They had two beautiful babies – Harper (their 1 ½ year old sassy baby girl) and Bowden (their sweet son who was only three months old). Then Bowden started having some common cold symptoms that sent them back and forth to the pediatrician. Over the course of 4 days, things turned progressively worse. When they noticed that his breathing was becoming more labored, their pediatrician recommended they take Bowden to the ER. From there, they were quickly transferred to Lurie Children’s Hospital in downtown Chicago.

Kindness Always, Even in the Toughest Journeys

Bowden was diagnosed with a very rare autoimmune disorder called Hemophagocytic Lympho Histiocytosis, also known as HLH. A quick way of explaining HLH is that it’s an overactive immune disorder where your white blood cells overreact to illnesses. They don’t stop at attacking the virus – they go after your organs and everything else, too. Since HLH is treated like cancer, Bowden was immediately started on a regimen of chemotherapy and high dose steroids. The Simmons also moved into the Ronald McDonald House at Lurie’s, just three blocks away from the hospital so they could stay close to Bowden and the care he needed.

About 4 months into treatment, while Bowden was preparing for a Bone Marrow Transplant, the Simmons were dealt more crushing news. Bowden also had Acute Myeloid Leukemia. At the time, Bowden was the only case in the world to have both HLH and Leukemia. It also meant that the Bone Marrow Transplant couldn’t be done at that time. They had to start treatment over. He responded beautifully again – even earning himself a stay with his family at the Ronald McDonald House. They went to Navy Pier, got his caricature done, and then that night… he spiked a fever. They were back in the ER by 7 am the next morning to learn that Bowden had a virus and he was readmitted. Shortly after being readmitted as a patient, Bowden relapsed, and another aggressive regimen was started, yet his condition continued to get worse. In the early morning hours of August 8, 2016, Bowden passed away with Adam and Christine by his side.

Keeping Our Family Close

Throughout Bowden’s 6-month fight, and Adam and Christine’s fight to save him, they lived at the Ronald McDonald House in Lurie. This not only got them off the chair and couch in the hospital room, but they were able to stay close to Bowden and spend time with their young daughter Harper who had been staying in Peoria, IL with family.

“One of the hardest things about being in the hospital those four months was being away from Harper,” says Adam. “She was and still is the apple of my eye – as was Bowden – but, being separated from her at a young age, it crushed both of us. Her godparents would bring her up every week to the House – even if it was just a couple hours.”

Continue reading

Peoria Journal Star – Ronald McDonald House Planned for Peoria

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois is the latest addition to the city’s medical district.

Read the article here: http://www.pjstar.com/news/20180603/ronald-mcdonald-house-planned-for-peoria

PEORIA — Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois is the latest addition to the city’s medical district.

The $7 million, 4 1/2 story building with 22 bedrooms which is coming to the corner of Spalding and Monroe avenues will break ground in September.

“Construction should take about 14 months with the facility’s planned opening set for late October 2019,” said Kelly Thompson, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois.

Peoria follows Springfield as the second downstate city to feature a Ronald McDonald House, she said. Five Ronald McDonald Houses serve the Chicago area.

The Ronald McDonald House will serve any child receiving care at one of the area hospitals up to his or her 22nd birthday along with family, she said. “The stay could be one day or up to a year. The cost to the family is free,” said Thompson.

Rooms are designed suite-style to accommodate four to five people, she said. “The room becomes the family’s home while a child is receiving care,” said Thompson, who credited Gordon Honegger, former chairman of Morton Community Bank, with finding the location for the home.

“Two years ago on Memorial Day, he called me to say, ‘I have the perfect place for you.’ The key was to be close to the hospitals,” she said.

The location by the Scottish Rite Cathedral provides proximity to OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois and UnityPoint Health-Methodist. “Ninety percent of the children’s hospitals in the United States are served by a Ronald McDonald House,” said Thompson, noting that both area hospitals are active supporters of the project.

The facility will have a wing designed specifically for families whose children are receiving treatment at St. Jude Midwest Affiliate, said Julie Locke of the DAX Foundation. “The DAX wing will provide five rooms on the second floor with a playroom and laundry, all on that floor,” she said.

The DAX Foundation donated $1 million to the construction of the Ronald McDonald House in Peoria, part of the $5 million already raised, said Locke.

“One of the features in the house is a gathering space on the first floor so that families get to know one another and help provide support that’s so much needed,” she said.

Thompson said that 80 percent of the fundraising goal of $7 million is expected to be raised by the time of the September ground breaking. Area McDonald’s restaurant owner/operators have pledged to raise $500,000 towards the Ronald McDonald House, she said.

Fundraising will continue once the house is up and running, said Thompson. “We want to raise $1 million a year for annual operations,” she said. Honegger, Locke and Terry Clark, a McDonald’s owner/operator in Peoria, head up a 25-person committee that’s been meeting monthly for the past year to plan the Ronald McDonald House effort locally.

“Our goal is to provide a hot meal served every day for those staying at the house. We call it ‘Meals from the Heart,’” said Thompson.

Farnsworth Group and River City Construction have been contracted to design and build the 40,000 square-foot structure.

Adopt-the-House sponsorship opportunities as well as individual giving opportunities are available and can be viewed online at www.rmhc-centralillinois.org.

Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com. Follow him at twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/tartersource.

 

The Diebal Family

Pictured are Jamie and Craig, with Allison and Jillian doing well at 16 weeks in August of 2017.

Our 2017 Winter Mailer features to story of Jamie and Craig and their stay at the House when their twin daughters were born prematurely. Below is Jamie's story in her own words.

In the early morning hours of May 1, 2017, our world completely changed. I was only 27 weeks along in my pregnancy with twin girls, when my water broke. My husband and I arrived at the hospital in Springfield, fearing the worst. Two days later, our girls were born on May 3, 2017. They were so tiny with Allison weighing 2 pounds 3 ounces and Jillian weighing 2 pounds 9 ounces. Both girls spent over 50 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The evening I was released from the hospital we went directly over to the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Springfield where we were greeted and quickly checked in. From the moment we walked in the door everyone was so helpful and supportive.
Continue reading

2017 Holiday Wishlist

We need your help to restock our House with some special items this 2017 holiday season! You can help brighten the day of a family at the House with your gift this year! See below for items needed!
Questions? Contact Brian Replogle at br@rmhc-centralillinois.org or 217-528-3314 x147

Help up restock our House for our families this Holiday season!

Dishes break, fabric stains, items wear out... We could use your help to restock the items we regularly use!

Continue reading

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