Watch Anne’s Story
Forever In Our Hearts
By: Anne Talbert Gower
We stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Fairfax in 2003 when our daughter, Alexis, had open heart surgery. It was the biggest blessing to us.
During an exam when Alexis was 2 weeks old, her doctor noticed she had a heart murmur. After an echocardiogram, she was diagnosed with Atrial Septal Defect. She had a 6-millimeter hole in her heart that was basically just moving blood between the hole in the top 2 chambers instead of everywhere it was supposed to go.
Heart holes in newborns are common, so they hoped it would close naturally. By the time Alexis was 8 months old, however, the hole had grown to the point it would never close on its own. Doctors told us open heart surgery was the only way to fix it.
We found out about the Ronald McDonald House the day we went for Alexis' pre-op appointment.
The first time we saw the House, we immediately felt a sense of calm.
Everyone there was going through something serious with their own families and being able to be so close to our daughter in the hospital was a tremendous relief.
It is a beautiful house on gorgeous grounds. It's spacious and open and has a very inviting feeling. The rooms are large, with a full bathroom. There are fresh linens, a comfortable bed, even a bedside telephone. The kitchen is amazing and has anything you might possibly need to feed yourself and your family, including quick snacks and drinks.
Ronald McDonald House is such a blessing to so many people.
We lived about 20 minutes away, and even though it isn't that far, when your child is in the hospital and sick, it seems like an impossible distance.
Had we not been able to stay at RMH, we would have had to get a hotel somewhere. Staying at the Ronald McDonald House allowed us to get sleep, shower, eat, and then see Alexis immediately, any time of the day or night. It takes away the stress of traveling and trying to find lodging and food.
We were able to fully concentrate on our daughter’s recovery and not worry about lodging or travel.
Alexis stayed in the hospital for four nights before she was released, then she needed months of physical therapy to help her breastbone heal. She started crawling 2 months after surgery and by her first birthday, she was back to herself. She was walking and finished with physical therapy and only seeing her cardiologist every 6 months for follow ups.
I'm so happy to say my beautiful daughter will be graduating high school next year. My husband and I will never forget how wonderful it was to be able to concentrate on our daughter getting better.
My advice for parents of children going through childhood illness is to never give up hope! Hope pulls us through everything. Believe that miracles happen. Lean on family and friends and don't go through this alone.