Inside the Birmingham charity giving free shelter and community to parents with ailing children

A Birmingham charity has become a home for families whose children are getting treated at the Children’s Hospital

For 30-year-old Rachel, mother-of-three, her home near Dudley no longer feels like her own. She has spent almost half a year living at an accommodation in Birmingham City Centre as her baby is currently a patient at the local children’s hospital.

She’s gone back to her family home only 3-4 times since her child was admitted at the hospital, and is expected to stay there for the forseeable future.

“This is home now,” she tells BirminghamWorld, sitting in the community lounge on the ground floor of the Ronald McDonald House - named after the famous McDonald’s clown - on St. Mary’s Row. Her daughter has been in intensive care for 57 days so far.

Charlotte, Tracy and Emily at Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham

She comes back to the house only to sleep - if it comes and recharge herself to face the next day again. In this difficult time, she’s receiving support from the charity that runs the house and provides free accommodation.

Charlotte, Tracy, Emily, and other staff at the charity work tirelessly to ensure that families can have all the support possible. Families get rooms free-of-charge and access to the facilities.

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The charity, Ronald McDonald House Charities, is headquartered in Pennsylvannia, US. They provide free lodgings to families whose children are patients at the hospital and has a capacity of 65. The building, which looks as big as hotel, has multiple floors with lounges, rooms for teens, play areas, community kitchens, a laundry room, and more. They run 13 houses all over the country and the site in Birmingham is one of the bigger ones.

Ronald McDonald House

Families can even get a day pass if their child is going through a surgery, but a room is usually allocated to those with children who will be in the hospital the longest just like Rachel’s family.

Her third daughter, Everleigh,, was born in May and they spent the best two weeks together before the child started having difficulties. After multiple trips to the hospital and a heart attack, the baby was diagnosed with Alström syndrome - which leads to progressive loss or hearing, vision, and a weakened heart and type 2 diabetes.

At this point, her baby has spent more time in hospitals than at home. Her parents take turns in staying close to her while the other parent goes back to the house for rest and recovery. Their older daughters, 10 and 6, temporarily live with their grandmother so that they can have a routine and go to school.

Rachel has gone home for special occasions only and restricts the amount of time her older children spend with the baby because she wants to protect them from having to see their sister so poorly. The mother, who worked in pastoral care in a school, and her partner, 29, were putting in an application to buy a house when her child got sick. The application is still lying where they left it at home.

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They spend more than 10 hours beside their child. Only a week ago, they received a call late at night asking them to rush back to the hospital since it was feared that Everleigh. won’t be able to pull through.

All their plans are on hold, while they wait for their child to get a heart transplant - which is likely to happen in anything between two weeks to 18 months. Until then, they wait and watch.

How has the charity helped people?

The Birmingham House has accommodated 658 families so far and the longest stay was 664 days long. Ronald McDonald House Charities UK has accommodated 3,916 families across 12 houses and the average length of stay is 16 nights across the country. The longest family stay was in Manchester in 2018 and they stayed a total of 1,192 nights. Families are able to on average, £1,240 a month in out-of-pocket accommodation costs.

If you want to donate to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, you can do it here.

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