March 12, 2021
This Mother’s Day, we are shining a light on mums supporting mums. When you have a seriously ill child in hospital, sometimes the best person to have by your side is your own mum.
Meet three mums who share a similar experience – they each stayed in a Ronald McDonald House with their mums who gave crucial support during one of the most challenging times of their lives.
At just two years old, Jemma’s son, Freddie, was diagnosed with stage four germ cell cancer. He was admitted to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and Jemma and her partner Gareth were told to prepare for a lengthy stay, miles from their family home.
Freddie was in and out of hospital for two years. Dad Gareth would sleep on the ward, while Jemma and her mum, Janeen, stayed together at Ronald McDonald House Birmingham. For Jemma, having her mum’s support during this time was invaluable.
“I would have crumbled if I didn’t have my mum’s support. It’s impossible to understand what it’s like to have a child in hospital unless you’ve experienced it yourself. It can be a really lonely and isolating life, and I would’ve felt a lot lonelier without my mum by my side.”
“I’m so glad I was able to stay in the House with Jemma. With Gareth sleeping on the ward, she needed someone to support her after every long day and every piece of bad news. It was a terrifying time for both of us – I’ve been a big part of Freddie’s life ever since he was born.”
Despite feeling worried about her son’s condition, Jemma said the staff at Ronald McDonald House Birmingham helped lift her spirits – especially on Mother’s Day:
“When we walked in, we were surprised with great balloon arches and cake, and they had arranged for all the mums in the House to get a haircut. It was overwhelming that the staff cared about us so much and wanted to pamper us on a day that felt really difficult for most of the mums in the House.”
Freddie has come on leaps and bounds since his treatment. Whilst he’s suffering from a few side effects from the aggressive chemo treatment, like nerve damage, overall he’s doing well.
When Dania gave birth to her son, Rowan, it was clear something was not right; Rowan was struggling to breathe and started to turn blue. Just five hours after his birth, he needed to be resuscitated. Rowan required expert medical treatment, so he was urgently transferred to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where he spent the next two months.
“My mum was with me from the start, and through every aspect of Rowan’s treatment. She took time off work to be with me, and she really was my rock. She was there when I needed to talk, and convinced me that everything would be alright whenever I felt low. She would buy food, cook and do our washing. There were even two days I felt really poorly and couldn’t make it to the hospital. My mum told me to stay in bed, and she went over to the hospital and video called me from there to let me know everything that was going on with Rowan.”
“Rowan’s condition came as a shock to both of us, as doctors had not spotted anything concerning while Dania was pregnant. It was an incredibly scary time, but I was glad I could do my part to support Dania. She’s always been really independent, but in this case she realised she needed support – and I was glad to be there every step of the way.”
Since this challenging time, Rowan – now 14 months old – has made an impressive recovery. During a hospital visit in January last year, the consultant was mesmerised by how effective Rowan’s treatment had been. His vocal chords are now working, and he’s due to have his tracheostomy removed in just a few weeks.
For the next five months, Anela was treated at several hospitals for conditions connected to premature birth, including sepsis, chronic lung disease and life-threatening infections. During this time Amy and her mum, Margaret, stayed together at various Ronald McDonald Houses, including Brighton, Camberwell and Evelina London.
Margaret became the full-time carer of Amy’s eldest daughter, Alina, but also cooked family meals and provided Amy with emotional support.
“Having my mum’s support during the time Anela was in hospital was vital – she was the glue that kept us all together. With her support, we were able to establish a routine that worked for our family. Without her by our side, we would have struggled financially as my partner Alex would not have been able to work full-time.”
“Amy needed someone to help with the practicalities of having a child in hospital, like taking care of her other daughter, cooking meals, and doing the washing. But being there for Amy emotionally was equally important. It’s one of the most significant things I’ve done as her mother.”
The experience they shared deepened the relationship between Amy and Margaret, but even more so, it strengthened the bond between Margaret and her granddaughter, Alina.
“They often reminisce about days spent in the Ronald McDonald Houses together,” Amy says. “My mum put so much effort into passing the time and making life easier for Alina, who was only three and a half when her younger sister was born.”