Community Papers

New Ronald McDonald House open for all BC families in need

Jack Colbert swinging in a playground two months ago. - Jillian Colbert
Jack Colbert swinging in a playground two months ago.
— image credit: Jillian Colbert

Each year, BC Children’s Hospital provides expert care for more than 78,000 children – with 67 per cent of its patients coming from areas outside the City of Vancouver. Four per cent of families who stay at RMH BC are from the Kootenays.  The new Ronald McDonald House® BC & Yukon (RMH BC) opened on Monday, June 16 on the campus of BC Children’s Hospital to better serve families in need.

RMH BC  provides a home environment for families with sick children, right on hospital grounds, so parents can focus on what matters most: healing their sick child.

Jillian and Aaron Colbert, local residents of Nelson, learned how to cope at RMH BC through family-centered care after their new-born son Jack was diagnosed with an AVSD heart defect and an imperforate anus. The family, unaware that Jack had any health conditions, was not prepared to travel to Vancouver from Nelson when Jack was born.

Jillian said she and Aaron  had no idea their baby was going to be born with Down Syndrome and a heart condition.

“Two hours after giving birth to Jack, we were flown to Vancouver,” she said.

Jillian didn’t even have clothes when she arrived at the RM House which was the first of many places the family stayed.

“It was so welcoming, like being at home,” said Jillian.  Returning to the BC Children’s Hospital for Jack’s ongoing monthly medical treatments, the Colbert family got to know other families staying there too. “It really helped being able to relate with other families who have a child with health issues.”  She said many cases were worse than her son’s and the reality of what others were going through was grounding. With three children and monthly travel expenses mounting, Jillian said that an initial donation of clothes and regularity of people who came to the house to make food meant so much. “We were barely making it with the travel expenses,” she said.

During holidays such as Easter and Christmas, the staff were very thoughtful and really made it feel like home, especially for their daughter. Fortunately, the family was able to stay together at RMH BC where they close relationships with many of the other families staying at the house.

In the first year, the family of five needed to stay in Vancouver every month as Jack recovered from four surgeries, one being open heart. Now 14-months old, Jack visits the hospital every three months. The new RM house is a one minute walk  from the BC Children’s Hospital whereas the old house is a 20 to 30 minute walk away.

Jillian pointed out that the second house will be wonderful as there is so much demand for the accommodation.

In addition to the 13 room house that has assisted  400 families each year, the brand new 73 room  house located on the grounds of the BC Children’s Hospital will now help serve more than 2500 BC families in need.

 

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