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"The Houses became our sanctuaries": Maisy's story

March 19, 2024

Parents Jaimie-Lee and James discovered early on during Jaimie-Lee’s pregnancy that their little girl would be born with Down’s syndrome and a heart condition. Overwhelmed by the news, they began to process it as best they could but were still unsure of what the impact would be on all their lives, after she was born. Immediately after birth, baby Maisy required specialist care at the Wirral Women and Children’s Hospital, that would continue for several months and in different locations.

Thankfully Ronald McDonald House Charities UK was able to support the Kevill family as Maisy’s hospital journey began. With another child at home and needing to be close by Maisy as much as possible, the Arrowe Park and Alder Hey Houses gave them a ‘home away from home’ where they’d find comfort, support and a sense of normality through uncertain times.

Guest blogger – Jaimie-Lee

Maisy’s Down’s Syndrome diagnosis was confirmed to us from the CVS (chorionic villus sampling) test on World Down’s Syndrome Day, coincidentally! I remember it was really hard in the beginning, simply to process everything, and in the end, I decided to join some groups to get some support.

When Maisy was born, she needed immediate care on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), as she had breathing troubles and feeding issues. On the day of my discharge from the maternity ward, I felt very upset, and I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her side. Thankfully, the compassionate staff at Ronald McDonald House Arrowe Park assured us that we could stay with them, when Maisy was just three days old. Their support was invaluable during those early, emotional days.

My husband James, our three-year-old son Riley and I live in a town called Bromborough, in Merseyside, which is approximately a ten-minute drive away from the Wirral Women and Children’s Hospital. Ten minutes can sound close by to some, but when your child is in hospital any distance can feel like hundreds of miles, when you need to be with them.

Once we had moved into Ronald McDonald House Arrowe Park, our stay continued for five weeks while Maisy was in the NICU. During this time, my mum would watch Riley at home but eventually our whole family was able to join us at the House.

When I arrived, I was very emotional, and it was a nurse on the ward who first took me to meet the staff in the House. The lovely ladies who work there instinctively knew when I was about to cry and before I was even shown around, they sat me down for a coffee and made me feel welcome. It became our sanctuary, a place where we found solace and strength. The staff, always friendly and attentive, provided a supportive environment for us. They knew just when to offer a listening ear or a friendly chat, helping us feel less isolated during our challenging journey.

Following our time at the Arrowe Park House, we returned home for a few months before Maisy required medical attention once again. In March, we found ourselves at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital but were happy to know that there was another Ronald McDonald House close to the hospital.

Our experience at Ronald McDonald House Alder Hey was a little different, as it was a much larger facility compared to Arrowe Park House, but the friendly and supportive team at the reception desk was always ready to assist us. They made us feel very welcome and did everything to help us settle into our new home during what would become our extended stay.

Maisy had her heart surgery at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and funnily enough, it ended up taking place on World Down’s Syndrome Day. This day now holds a special significance for us – not only was it the day we were informed about Maisy’s Down Syndrome, it’s also become the day she was brave enough to undergo major surgery.

Both Ronald McDonald Houses went above and beyond to create a sense of normalcy and when appropriate, celebration, throughout all the medical challenges we faced. When you have a child in hospital, you begin to feel like you live in a bubble, as if the outside world doesn’t exist. We were thrilled to participate in events like the Coronation and Eurovision parties, where they even delivered thoughtful gift bags outside our bedroom door. These events offered a brief respite from the hospital environment, allowing us to enjoy special moments together as a family.

The Ronald McDonald House also provided us with opportunities to connect with other families facing similar challenges. We formed bonds with other parents, some of whom we still consider close friends and keep in contact with. Sharing our experiences and supporting one another has been a tremendous source of comfort and strength during this difficult time.

If it wasn’t for the support and facilities of Ronald McDonald House Charities UK, I think I would have struggled much more with my own mental health. Being so close to Maisy in hospital relieved so much worry and concern, even being ten minutes away from the hospital was too long and would have been so much more difficult to cope with.

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