Ariel, a childhood cancer survivor who stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle, recently delivered a healthy baby at the Alaskan Native Medical Center (ANMC). Her proud parents had heard on the news that the new House was going to open at ANMC – and asked the attending nurse about it.
“She just pointed out the window and it was right there,” laughs Paul, Ariel’s father. Sometimes, life has a funny way of coming full circle.
In 1997, Ariel’s journey with cancer began with some flu-like symptoms. “It was a mother’s instinct,” recounts Josie. “I just knew something wasn’t right, even though we had taken my daughter Ariel to the Emergency Room earlier. She had some bruises, a cough, cold kind of thing, but it just felt different.”
When Ariel was just 3 and a half years old, Josie brought her back to the ER to get some shocking news – her daughter had cancer and needed to be flown to Seattle Children’s Hospital right away. Josie called her husband Paul, to let him know that they would be leaving their home in Alaska as soon as possible to take a medevac flight to Seattle. Paul was working up in Seward, about a 3 hour drive away, but knew he had to be there for his daughter. “I just told Josie, ‘I’m on my way,'” remembers Paul. He rushed to be by her side, making the drive in just 2 hours.
“We took an ambulance from the hospital to Anchorage International to board a Medevac flight to Seattle. The aircraft and crew were waiting, we got on and departed right away. The airport in Alaska closed all outbound and inbound flights so we could board and take off quickly. 3 hours later, we landed on Boeing Field and took an ambulance to Seattle Children’s,” says Paul.
Hardly any time later, Josie had found a room at the Ronald McDonald House. “I didn’t even know what the Ronald McDonald House was before coming here,” she says. “But the House is such a place of warmth and welcome – the caring of the staff was incredible. Coming from Alaska, and then going through a life changing event…Having a place to stay made all the difference.”
Both Paul and Josie remember the House as a place where strangers became family. “You’d just cook together and share stories, like ‘How’s your kid doing today?’ Or if you were having a bad day because counts were down, you knew you weren’t in it alone – you would be coming home to people who felt like family. It was an instant support network,” recalls Josie.
Since Josie and Paul know how important the House can be for families first hand, they are excited to volunteer at the new Ronald McDonald House at ANMC. “We can’t give back with money, but we want to give back with our time,” says Josie. “Sometimes all you need is someone who has been on that journey before telling you it will be okay.”
If you are interested in volunteering at our House in Alaska, check out our page that now lists some of the available opportunities.