Expansion Projects Mean More Families Will Have a Home Away from Home

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When Christina Smith was admitted to the hospital two hours from home with a high-risk pregnancy, all she cared about was making sure her babies would be ok. But after her triplets were born and she was released from the hospital, she knew the two-hour drive one way each day to be near her girls would be nearly impossible.

“The Ronald McDonald Family Room made our stay in the hospital feel more like we were at home,” Christina recalls. “There was always someone there to greet us and other families to talk to. We were so grateful for the care and comfort we received.”

Our vision has always been a world where all families like the Smiths can heal together. Thanks to two exciting projects that will expand our care into new hospitals, that vision is a step closer to reality for hundreds of families each year – with your support.

“There are families whose children are so critically ill that leaving the hospital isn’t an option, when being two  blocks away is still too far,” shared Holly Buckendahl, Chief Executive Officer, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI). “For those families, creating new Family Rooms and Houses within hospital settings will give them the comfort and services they need when and where they need it most.”

New Ronald McDonald House – and Partnership – with Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital

Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital is home to the Renée Schine Crown Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the largest NICU in Chicago, providing care for approximately 1,600 babies each year. Like RMHC-CNI, Northwestern Medicine knows the importance of a family-centered model of care, where parents are encouraged to be active participants in their child’s care.

With the addition of a new Ronald McDonald House within the hospital, parents will have a quiet and relaxing space only moments away from their baby where they can rest, eat, and decompress – all of which enables them to spend more time with their child and to learn and develop confidence in their care.

Parents with a child in the NICU often spend days sitting in a chair at their baby’s side with no real place to rest or recharge. For years, your support has allowed us to serve these families at our nearby Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s, but through ongoing discussions with Prentice Women’s Hospital, we knew it was critical to offer them care and comfort closer to their child.

Carolynn Scull, whose daughter Sienna recently spent 30 days in the Prentice NICU, knows first-hand how valuable these new rooms will be for parents and families.

“When your baby is in the NICU, your entire world feels like an upside down universe where all that matters is the health and livelihood of your newborn,” Carolynn shared.

“You live for every doctors’ update, hang on to every positive comment from the nurses, and every time you leave your child’s bedside, it feels like a part of you is missing. These new rooms will be invaluable. To offer parents a space to breathe and decompress amidst their living trauma is truly a gift.”

The Ronald McDonald House inside Prentice will also ease the burden on parents whose infants require a transfer to Lurie Children’s for critically needed surgery. A skybridge connects the two premier downtown hospitals, and the Ronald McDonald House will serve as a new bridge of support for families.

“We are thrilled and honored to work with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana,” shared Dr. Leslie Caldarelli, MD, Medical Director, Renée Schine Crown NICU, Prentice Women’s Hospital. “Through this relationship and the development of parental and family space, the NICU will be able to enhance our ability to deliver family-centered care.”

“The physical space and resources of the Ronald McDonald House within our hospital will foster and enable the support needed for families with babies in the NICU. Our new spaces will allow families to find support, rest, and better meet competing demands while caring for their newborn in the NICU.”

New Ronald McDonald Family Room in Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge

For more than a decade, RMCH-CNI and Advocate Children’s Hospital have partnered to care for thousands of children and families in the Chicagoland area.

Both the Ronald McDonald House near Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn and the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program are shining examples of the incredible impact these two organizations can have when they work together. While the Ronald McDonald House near Advocate Children’s in Oak Lawn has grown to meet the needs of that hospital campus, so has the need to provide a place of respite for patient families being cared for in Park Ridge.

Each year, nearly 10,000 children are admitted to Advocate Children’s Hospital, one of the largest providers of pediatric services in Illinois. And with 133 pediatric beds – including a 54-bed NICU and a 19-bed intensive care unit – the Park Ridge campus is the destination pediatric hospital for northern Illinois.

But on average, more than 30 percent of all families with a child admitted to Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge live more than an hour away from the hospital. Distance, coupled with the lack of physical space for families to stay together within the hospital, makes it challenging for parents to stay close to their hospitalized child.

The addition of a new Ronald McDonald Family Room within the Advocate Park Ridge hospital aims to change that, giving families the ability to stay close for critical medical decisions – and bedtime hugs.

“As a regional provider of pediatric health care, so many families at Advocate Children’s Hospital are managing their children’s health care far from home,” said Mike Farrell, President, Advocate Children’s Hospital.

“This Ronald McDonald Family Room on our Park Ridge campus and our Ronald McDonald House on our Oak Lawn campus are a reflection of our long-standing partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana. We are two teams, joined together as one, to compassionately care for children and families in our communities.”

With Your Help, New Spaces Will Give Ongoing Comfort and Respite for Families

At both Advocate Children’s and Prentice, the nearly 4,000-square-foot spaces will feature private family sleeping rooms, communal kitchen and dining areas with twice-daily free meal service, laundry facilities, computer workstations with internet access, and family living and play space. The Ronald McDonald Family Room in Advocate Children’s will also include individual bathrooms within each bedroom.

In the first full year of operation, we anticipate providing more than 2,700 overnight check-ins and nearly 40,000 visits to the common spaces.

“We are so grateful to our partners at both Prentice and Advocate Children’s for opening their hearts – and doors – to us so we can get care closer to families,” said Holly Buckendahl. “It speaks to our shared long-term commitment to serving families and our mission to help families get better together.”

But these new rooms are more than numbers – for families like the Smiths, they will be a home away from home while their child grows stronger.