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We had nothing: Matilda's story

August 18, 2021

Guest blogger: Heather

At just 12 days old, our daughter Matilda was rushed an hour away from home in an ambulance to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. She developed whooping cough and needed to be cared for in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU). We didn’t have anything apart from the clothes on our backs and our phones. It was a last minute, “we need to go, right now”. We worried about who would be able to care for our other child Isaac.

“Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

“Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After cough fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound. Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old.”

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2019

We arrived late, so I was given a bed at the hospital which to me felt dark and scary. In the morning, we were referred for a room at the Ronald McDonald House Manchester. We knew there were Houses across the UK, but we didn’t realise how much of a lifesaver it is for when families are in need.

Getting a bed for myself, my husband Jason and a travel cot for Isaac was exactly what we needed. Just to have a shower and sit down with a brew, but knowing we were just a few steps away from PICU, helped to calm our nerves a little. As soon as we were shown around our room, I crashed on the bed. The relief in knowing we had somewhere to stay was brilliant.

There are facilities for all ages, including children who are in the hospital. The House ran events to keep siblings occupied from film days to craft sessions, and if it was a special occasion, they would make sure the House was decorated. All these little things help to make the children feel more relaxed.

We feel very, very grateful for the Ronald McDonald House team. Every member of staff and volunteering team go above and beyond to make sure the families are okay. A smile at the front desk, a reminder of some free goodies up for grabs… It all just makes a difference.

If we couldn’t have stayed as a family at the House it would have been hard to stay positive about getting home. It’s like being part of a tag team – one parent stays at their child’s bedside whilst the other gets rest and then swap over for the night shift. Also being able to have the dayrooms, away from the medical environment… it’s much needed, especially when families have been apart for long periods of time.

When staying, you need to pop down a small deposit for your room key which you can get back when you check out. Every stay we have had, the staff always seem shocked when we refuse the refund, but it’s the very least we can do when the facilities and care they provide, when we needed them the most, is just brilliant.

Matilda is now nine years old and doing really well. We had another addition to the family Octavia and couldn’t be happier. At her christening, we raised money for Ronald McDonald House Charities UK.

Matilda, 9, who had whooping cough with her family.

Thank you Ronald McDonald House Manchester.

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