For the last several years, Boom has asked for donations to the Ronald McDonald House in lieu of gifts at his birthday parties. This month, Boom decided to run in the Ronald McDonald House Run4Kids this weekend. It’s a 5k which is the equivalent of 3.1 miles. When I think of the distance to my brother’s house, it’s roughly 3.1 miles, I couldn’t run it. Heck, I couldn’t walk it! When Boom first expressed interest in running it, I was concerned that he didn’t have time to train, and he might not complete it. But he was insistent that he could do it, and I know from his watch that he walks about 7 miles a day most days, so I conceded. I signed him up and posted his fundraiser page on my Facebook page and the donations began coming in!
A few people have asked me why he is so supportive of Ronald McDonald House and it occurred to me that not everyone who knows us now, knows our story. Here’s why Boom (and the rest of us) has such a soft spot for the Ronald McDonald House.
On June 3, 2011, Hoss was born at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville. He was a very sick little buddy with lots of “mistakes” in his heavenly construction that would require surgical intervention. I use quotes because we personally believe that Hoss is made just the way God intended for him to be, and that those “mistakes” are merely part of his story that God has and will continue to use for His glory! When he was three days old, Hoss underwent his first surgery to repair his esophagus. Nine days and two lung collapses later he had his first open heart surgery. Most of that time I was in-patient, recovering from the C-section. Vince stayed with me and our family was nearby in various hotels taking care of Boom. He was three and a half.
Once Hoss was stable after surgery, our family returned to Chattanooga, taking Boom with them. Vince and I stayed in Hoss’ room as much as possible. A couple of nights we were able to get a parent room at the hospital. We could check in at 10:00 and had to be up and out by 7:00 the next morning. Room assignments were based on the severity of your child’s illness and the distance you were from home. Fortunately, we were able to get a room at the local Ronald McDonald House. We were able to unpack our bags a bit and we had our own private twin beds and bathroom. It was quiet and we could rest. Most importantly to me, Boom could be with us. He could spend the night snuggled in his daddy’s arms (I still had a belly full of staples) and we could begin our new normal. I’ll never forget calling my mama and saying I need my baby! She and Dad loaded up again and we met halfway that night.
As a postpartum mom with a very fragile newborn, I could hardly bear to leave that room. I didn’t want to watch tv or socialize with the other parents there. I didn’t want to know their stories. I wanted to be at the hospital or in our room. It was the most depressing place I had ever been. Every chair or bookshelf or piece of artwork had a small brass plaque dedicating that item in memory of…I felt like I was in a house of death. I couldn’t bear the thought that there could some day be a piece of furniture with Hoss’ name on it.
A few days after our Ronald McDonald House stay began, I got my staples out and was released to begin driving. Vince came home to return to work and he brought Boom with him. There was no way for me to take care of a toddler and be at the hospital as much as I needed to be. It was ok. It was the right thing for everyone. My parents kept Boom during the day and he was home with his daddy at night. They came to visit on the weekends and we were a family. As Hoss continued to improve, they would come visit and they went on grand adventures around Nashville. We went to Target and took Boom to see Cars 2 in the theater. We tried hard to be as normal as possible in a strange down with half our hearts in the hospital.
When they returned home, they resumed their regular routine and I began to create my own. On our big Target excursion, I picked up some of my laundry detergent and dryer sheets. I wanted Hoss’ blankets and clothes to smell like our home. For me, doing laundry became something I could control that was productive and normal. It also required I venture out of my room at Ronald McDonald House to the laundry room. As Hoss continued to improve and the word “home” began to be mentioned, I began to improve. I noticed that, while there were many “in memory” plaques, there were more “in honor” plaques. I began to be able to imagine the hope that those walls had seen, the prayers that had been offered and answered, the miracles that families had seen as guest residents of that house.
By the time my boys came back for one last weekend, I had washed all of our room’s linens and the towels from the bathroom so every part of that room smelled like home. We went home later that week but we would stay at the Ronald McDonald House again 5 months later when Hoss had his second open heart surgery. The second time wasn’t nearly as traumatic. We knew more what to expect, but we also knew that whatever happened, we could be together.
It was several years before Boom was really able to articulate his memories of that time. He remembers the adventures he had with his Daddy and coming to the hospital to see Hoss and me, but he also remembers that during a very uncertain time in his world, the Ronald McDonald House provided him a way to be with us, to feel normal and to know that his mama was back to doing laundry and whatever else she could to see that everything was the way it should be.
In his 12 year old way, Boom wants to do what he can to ensure that other children have the opportunity to be with their mamas and daddies when their world is upside down, to find their new normal and feel secure. And that is why we will be wearing red and cheering him on whether he succeeds or fails to complete all 3 miles this Saturday.
Boom has raised $465 so far! If you’d like to make a donation, there’s still time! Just click this link to go to his fundraising page. https://secure.qgiv.com/event/account/921157/?fbclid=IwAR3M2D71iQkrOkAhJda5B7QvbBDM_AkV-eUvJZ-tX0ZPKTnfbJ0akA-tinM