RMHC of Greater Washington, DC
Family Story Book
Over 22,000 families have found a
home-away-from-home within our doors.
Here are brief stories of just a few
that have been helped by your generous
One example of a family that stayed with us in 2012
Jason’s mom, Arlette, tells the story of how her family
survived his childhood illness and how staying at the
Ronald McDonald House in Washington, D.C. made
all the difference.
“When our son, Jason,
was about 4 weeks old, he de-
veloped a disease that destroyed his
small intestine. He waited on a transplant list for more than a year.
When your child is seriously ill, you feel like you are fighting for his
every breath. In the middle of one night, we finally got the call saying
Georgetown University Hospital had a transplant for Jason. We left
New York immediately. The surgery was successful, but we had to
stay close by for over six months so doctors could monitor him.
That’s when we became part of the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) family. There, you have a
natural support system from other families going through similar situations. One family even helped
us get back to the hospital during an emergency in the middle of the night. RMH also provides home-
cooked meals and little or no cost rooms, especially
helpful since we both had to leave our jobs to attend to Jason’s health. We wouldn’t have been able to
When your child is seriously ill, you feel like you are fighting for his every breath.
Ronald McDonald House means so much to our family; it truly is a home-away-from-home. Nine
years down the road from that first scary night at the hospital, Jason is doing well. We return for
annual check-ups and stay at the D.C. RMH each time. During this time, we found out what
supporters of RMH already know, that it is very important to have a place like Ronald McDonald
House because you can’t go through things in life like this by yourself. That’s what RMH does;
provides a home-away-from-home so families can get the support they need to help their child heal.”
The support at RMH gives you a chance to
re-evaluate your situation, and learn how to
live through it.
Today, after his successful transplant, Jason is a thriving nine
year old. Jason’s family is just one of the 22,000
families that have benefited from Ronald McDonald House
Charities® of Greater Washington, D.C. since we opened our
doors in 1980. Though each famiy has their own story, they all Jason, 2003 Jason, thing
have one 2012
in common: you and the love and support shown through your generous donations.
You can donate by check, credit card, or on-line at
~ Designate your donation for 2012WDMR
Ronald Mcdonald Ronald McDonald House means so much to our family;
GReateR WasHinGton, d.c. It truly is a home-away-from-home.
One example of a family that stayed with us in 2011
At 4 months old,
Brandon was diagnosed
Brandon’s red blood cells
were extremely depleted;
he had bone marrow
failure; and his growth
would remain below
normal. Through careful
management, doctors were
able to stabilize Brandon’s
condition and from 6
months to 12 years old he
stayed healthy and happy...
a calm before the storm.
In September 2009, just after Brandon became a big
brother for the third time, his illness returned.
At first it seemed that he just had a stomach virus, but it soon
became clear that something was seriously wrong. Doctors said it was Myelodysplastic Syndrome
(MDS) which, left untreated, becomes Leukemia. Brandon had his first bone marrow transplant to
ward off the MDS, but when it came back, doctors had to pursue a more aggressive treatment.
In March of 2011, doctors told Brandon and his family that he needed another transplant, as well as
chemotherapy treatment, as soon as possible. Hiding in the nooks and crannies of bones, MDS tends
to evade even the most comprehensive chemotherapy treatments. In order to treat the resurgence of
MDS, doctors performed a bone marrow transplant that they knew would result in Brandon developing
Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD).
GVHD attacks unfamiliar cells. Although the GVHD would ultimately attack unaffected bone
marrow, in addition to the MDS cells, introducing GVHD to Brandon’s system was the best bet
for eliminating the pre-cancerous MDS. And because his immune system was so fragile, he
was kept in isolation for 4 months. Brandon is now fighting off GVHD of the gut and liver,
meaning he can’t eat solid foods.
With medical expenses mounting and limited resources to get them through,
Brandon’s parents were unable to take off from work and were unsure how they
would keep their four children together. That’s when his mother moved their
family into the D.C. Ronald McDonald House® (RMH). RMH has isolation
suites designed specially for families of children with delicate situations,
like Brandon’s. Brandon was able to have his family around him and
his parents had their children under one roof and at one dinner
table, and were still able to go to work.
A “Home” to Heal Together
As told by Sara’s mother
When you find out your unborn child has a severe
congenital heart defect, many thoughts bombard your mind:
What will her life be like? Will she be “normal”? Will I outlive my
child? Through the course of three open-heart surgeries, three
cardiac catheterizations, a wound infection, sepsis, a
chylothorax, multiple days in the ICU, and weeks in the
hospital, we worried about so much. One thing we did not
have to worry about was how we would be able to stay close
enough to be with Sara during her stays in the hospital, thanks
entirely to Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Greater
Washington, D.C. (RMHC®).
Despite the fact that congenital heart defects are the most common
congenital birth defects, we knew nothing about them and had no idea
what to expect. Sara needed to be born two
hours from our home, in order to have the first
surgery she would need shortly after birth. One
week after Sara’s birth, she had her first surgery.
She spent the next three weeks in the ICU,
recovering from surgery and fighting off a
wound infection and sepsis. While staying at
the Ronald McDonald House® (RMH) we
immediately felt at home, with friendly staff
and kid-friendly surroundings. Our oldest, Rachel, was able to stay with us and RMH
became our home-away-from-home for Sara’s first month of life.
Our family returned to RMH D.C. in December2011, just days after Sara’s second
birthday, for her third open-heart surgery. This time we had the honor of being the last
family to stay at the old RMH and the first family to stay in the new (and fabulous) D.C.
House. And what an amazing new House it is! Although, in the grand scheme of life and
surgeries, it may seem minor, it was such a blessing to have a private bathroom! Not to
mention the comfortable beds, large kitchen, library, laundry facilities, play area... So very
much to be thankful for! Sara was in the hospital for two weeks this time. My husband and
I were able to alternate nights in the hospital with Sara, knowing that the other was getting
a good night’s sleep, while still close enough to rush to the hospital if needed.
RMH not only provides shelter, but also provides camaraderie. Those who have not had
to experience a major medical illness in their children are truly blessed. However, RMHC
serves to remind us just how very blessed we are.
One example of a family that stayed with us in 2010
A mother’s love is a source of
courage, hope and healing.
Just over a year ago, 17-year-old Lauren could think of nothing but senior prom, graduation
and the start of her freshmen year at the University of Tennessee.
On April 15th, 2010 Lauren was in an
horrific car accident that nearly took
her life. She suffered massive internal
injuries, brain trauma and a broken knee,
femur, pelvis, ankle, hand and parts of
her back. She had a ten percent chance
of survival and if she did recover, she had
an even smaller chance of ever walking
After the accident, Lauren woke to find
her mother at her hospital bedside.
Ronald McDonald House® became
Lauren and her mother’s home for the
next five months. The House gave them
the ability to devote all of their time
and efforts to Lauren’s recovery through
easy access to doctors appointments and
rehabilitation facilities. On a daily basis,
she and her mother would return to the
House after hours of painful physical
therapy to find freshly cooked meals,
comfortable beds, movie nights and
In a matter of months, Lauren went from
wheel chair, to walker, to crutches. On
September 16th, 2010 Lauren walked
down the Ronald McDonald House halls
to receive her high school diploma. Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Greater
Washington, D.C. staff, volunteers, Inova Fairfax hospital employees and Lauren’s high school
guidance counselor were all there to celebrate her incredible accomplishments. Of everyone,
her proud and teary-eyed mother who stood by her every step of the way, was the
shining light in the room.
Lauren is now taking pre-med classes at the University of Tennessee - she wants to go into the
field of Kinesiology.
Worth Every Mile
Salomé was born in Cartagena,Columbia.
When Salomé was just three years old, she was
diagnosed with a Medulloblastoma. This extremely
aggressive malignant brain tumor grows out of the
cerebellum and surgery is always a risky under-
taking. In Salomé’s case, surgery was even more
dangerous because of the tumor’s close proximity
to her brain stem. A Colombian hospital performed
two perilous brain surgeries, however, the tumor
persisted and doctors sent Salomé home saying
there was nothing else they could do. Unwilling to
accept defeat, Salomé’s mother and father, Lina
and Mauricio, continued to seek help and their
research ultimately brought them to Children’s
National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Head
of oncology, Dr. Tobey
MacDonald had “Having her family near
gave Salomé the strength,
good news: “We can support, and love she
help you.” They flew to D.C., met with the hospital’s oncology needed to face a long and
team and began the first of five chemotherapy treatments difficult treatment
and several stem cell recovery treatments. During this time, protocol. “
Salomé’s father, mother and three siblings stayed at the D.C.
Ronald McDonald House. Having her family near gave Salomé the strength, support, and
love she needed to face a long and difficult treatment protocol. The process of treating the
brain tumor with chemotherapy resulted in partial loss of hearing, but her father says, “It is
little in comparison to what she gained.”
Despite the help of insurance, the hospital bills and traveling expenses were difficult to bear.
Ronald McDonald House was able to eliminate the stress of hotel and daily living costs.
Traveling so far from home was not only very expensive but, initially, very lonely. Salomé and
her father say that the Ronald McDonald House has become like a second home to them
and they have always felt comforted by the other families they have met at the House,
families experiencing a similar challenge. Since a Medulloblastoma is so aggressive, Salomé
and her father flew the 10 hours from Columbia for her treatments every three months in
2005 and 2006, then every four
months from 2007-2009 and
every six months since then.
Now nine, Salomé has been in
remission for 4 years and flies to
D.C. for week long check-ups
during school breaks. Once
she reaches the 5 year mark
of remission in 2011, Salomé
will need to return for check-
ups once a year for the rest of
her life, to monitor for signs of
relapse. Mauricio and Salomé
The process of treating the stay at the Ronald McDonald
brain tumor with chemothera- House during each visit and
py resulted in loss of hearing in
both of Salomé’s ears, but her have treasured visiting the Na-
father says, “It is little in com- tional Mall and other D.C. sites.
parison to what she gained.”
One example of a family that stayed with us in 2009
Another Day To Be Thankful For...
Another Day To Be Thankful For...
M adelyn was born weighing 55pounds, 7 7
adelyn was weighing pounds,
ounces and was diagnosed with Down
ounces and was diagnosed with Down
Syndrome and two congenital heart defects.
Syndrome and two congenital heart defects.
One month old and staying at hospital, in the
One month old and staying at thethe hospital, in
the middle of one scary night, Madelyn into
middle of one scary night, Madelyn went went
into cardiac arrest. Fortunately, her parents
cardiac arrest. Fortunately, her parents were
were staying at the at the Mcdonald donald
staying nearbynearbyRonald Ronald McHouse®
House® were able to get to to hospital quickly
and theyand they were ablethe get to the hospi-
tal quickly side.
to be by her to be by her side.
alungs to her toold, Madelyn wasfrom go
a fterAtsurgeryheart, Madelyn was able toher
insert a shunt
fter surgery to insert a shunt from her lungs
to her heart, Madelyn was able to go home.
one year healthy
At one year old, Madelyn was healthy enough
enough to withstand open heart surgery. For
to withstand open heart surgery. For a second
a second time, stayed at RMH, thankful for
time, her parentsher parents stayed at RMH,
thankful for a Home-AwAy allowed them to
a Home-AwAy-From-Home that-From-Home that
allowed them to sleep in shifts, and develop
sleep in shifts, and develop friendships with oth-
friendships the other all while staying close
er families atwithHouse, families at the House,
all while staying close to Madelyn.
ow, after her successful heart surgery, Madelyn is back at home. She’s sit-
ow, after her successful heart surgery, Madelyn is back at home. She’s sitting,
playing patty cake, and and waving! Madelyn’s family is of one of the
ting, playing patty cake,waving! Madelyn’s family is just onejustthe 18,000
families that have benefited from Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Greater
18,000 families that have benefited from Ronald McDonald House Charities® of
Washington, D.C. since we opened our doors in 1980. in 1980. Though has fam-
Greater Washington, D.C. since we opened our doorsThough each familyeachtheir
own story, own story, one all have one thing in common: you and the love and
ily has theirthey all havethey thing in common: you and the love and support shown
through your through donations.
support showngenerous your generous donations.
Magic Behind the Medicine
E verything about Emma and her family
was magical, from the imaginary world the
children play in, to the miraculous way that
Emma recovered so quickly after every sur-
gery. Much like the heroes in the fairytales that
Emma and her brother loved to act out, the
family battled a daunting villain. Instead of a
giant dragon or evil witch, however, the villain
in this story was a cancerous tumor.
While horseback riding for the first time on her
8th birthday, Emma experienced a pain that
alerted her parents that something was wrong.
What doctors discovered was a malignant ter-
atoma: a cancerous tumor that grows quickly
and aggressively, spreading throughout the
body and requiring prompt removal. After her
first surgery in April 2008, Emma’s doctors be-
lieved that everything had been removed but
over the next year, two more surgeries were “...it was only days before she was
needed when two other tumors grew. In her walking and playing once again.”
final operation, Emma endured invasive sur-
gery that necessitated breaking her tail bone.
Despite the serious surgeries, Emma recovered
quickly due in part to a curiously powerful House truly proved to be a Home-Away-from-
remedy her family calls, “Maddie Medicine.” Home®, easing the family’s travel and keeping
Emma’s cousin, Maddie, came to visit after them together. Being with her mother is what
every surgery, lifting Emma’s spirits so that each Emma says makes her feel most at home.
time, it was only days before she was walking Emma’s brother, Wilhem, was given the choice
and playing once again. of staying with his grandmother and father, or
living in the House with his mother and sister.
For several months including 6 chemo treat- Six year old, Wilhem, responded, “I want to
ments and 3 surgeries, the family spent 92 stay at the Ronald McDonald House as long
uncomfortable nights in the hospital. While as you are here... my heart hurts when you’re
Emma spent a month undergoing 30 radiation away.”
treatments, the NOVA Ronald McDonald
We may not have a fairy godmother or a
magic wand, but Ronald McDonald House
Charities® of Greater Washington D.C., has the
magic of generous donors, dedicated volun-
teers, and a House that love built.
Thank you to all who support RMHC
- you are the magic. behind each
Sadly, Emma passed away a few years after
their stay at the NOVA RMH in 2009. Her smile,
pink tutu and tremendous spirit will forever
“My heart hurts when you’re away.” be in our hearts.
-Wilhem, 6 years old