Emma’s parents, Leah and Jacob, were both on active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard when the sweet two-year-old began acting unusually. With no apparent cause, the plucky toddler suddenly acted limp and in pain when time to get up in the morning. At an examination, her doctors found a small lump on her femur, which turned out to be a benign tumor.
The Monday morning Emma just fell to the ground, she and her parents were sent to an emergency room in Anchorage. “It was all so odd, because Emma’s demeanor never changed. She just stayed happy and the same throughout everything,” Leah remembers. By Monday night, the family learned Emma had no platelets. “That was a real turning point,” says Leah.
Tuesday brought a bone marrow aspirate and by Wednesday morning the parents heard the dreadful words, “It’s probably Leukemia.”
Fortunately, just like the sequence of events leading to her diagnosis, Emma turned out to be what’s called a fast responder, meaning her body is genetically predisposed to handling the treatment drugs and dosages exceptionally well.
The first three months of Emma’s treatments took place in Anchorage, but by May, the family learned they’d need to admit Emma to Seattle Children’s. “We had heard about the Ronald McDonald House from a social worker up in Alaska,” Leah recounts. “But when we got here, they didn’t have a room available. That was kind of a reality check, making us wonder how we’d get by, how to afford everything. There have been insurance bills I’d never even imagined seeing.”
When they did get a room, Leah and Emma moved in, with Emma’s dad visiting every chance he got. The first thing that stood out to the parents was how big the House is. “We thought it was huge,” Leah says laughing. “Coming from a city of 10,000 people, everything in Seattle seemed very big city.”
“The truth is, this place is incredible. The dinners here are unbelievable, and you don’t even realize how helpful they are until you are in this situation. On days when Emma is sick, and after a full day spent at the hospital, being able to sit down to a meal is one of the things the House does that makes life more bearable.”
Now headed home, Leah concludes, “We all always miss our real homes, but families couldn’t be in a better place to go through what they have to than the Ronald McDonald House. The other parents and kids become like an extended family and all the volunteers and staff are so kind.”