The Ronald McDonald House serves a variety of ages, with patients up to 21 years old. Alexandra is one such teen, who came to the House after a nine-month hospital stay in her native British Columbia, Canada. Her osteosarcoma (bone cancer) required her to get proton therapy, a specialized kind of radiation, at Seattle Children’s.
When asked about the differences between the House and the hospital she previously lived at, Alexandra replied, with true teenage incredulity, “How long do you have?!” She says the two are about as opposite as you can get. One major difference is the fact that she has more freedom and privacy at the House than previously. “In the hospital, going to the bathroom meant I had to drag this giant IV tower behind me all the way there – and then, it doesn’t even fit in the stall or anything, so you have to unhook yourself. Then hook back up, then back to your room – there’s just a lot more freedom when you have your own space, where you can really feel comfortable. I spent nine months on a hospital bed, and the bed here is so much comfier!”
It’s also difficult to meet other people when you’re staying in the hospital. At the House, we’re lucky to have volunteers who come to put on special pizza and teen nights so residents can meet each other and hang out. We also have a teen room, which is a special space just for teenagers with comfy couches and beanbags, gaming systems, computers, and more. While resting up here, Alexandra has met new friends with whom she regularly plays Wii in the teen room, attended a glowstick party hosted by Camp Korey in our theater, and has been enjoying a lot of Netflix when she needs some quiet time alone.
Alexandra also says that the House has helped her heal because she has been able to see members of her family. She wasn’t able to see her dad or brother when she was staying at the hospital in BC, but has been able to drive from RMHC to Canada to see them on weekends. “Seeing them on the weekends has been amazing. I’m really close with my brother, so I feel like I get this infusion of my family, which helps me get through the next week of treatment.”
But even when her immediate family isn’t around, Alexandra says there is always someone at the House she can talk to. “The hospital staff were great, but you know, they’re nurses and they have a job to do, so they can’t always just chat. Here, there is always someone to talk to – or, I have the privacy to go to my room and not talk to anyone! You don’t have the option to do that in the hospital. You’re kind of monitored, all the time.”
All in all, Alexandra says the House really has been like a home-away-from-home.