"I know that my family and I are welcome at Ronald McDonald House for as long as I need them"
Kerrie has been staying at the Southampton House since April whilst her baby, Bella, is receiving care in hospital. Though Bella is stable, Kerrie knows that they still have a while until they can go home. Here Kerrie tells us their journey so far and their plans for Christmas.
I first learned that my baby would need medical attention when I was only 20 weeks pregnant, being told that Bella had a serious heart condition. When it was time for me to give birth, complications meant that I had to have an emergency C-section and wasn’t able to see Bella until the day after she was born.
At just four days old, Bella underwent her first open heart surgery. After a 13 week stay on the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), we were rushed to the Evelina Hospital in London when Bella became unable to breathe. Here she had a stent fitted (a tube that's used to treat narrow or weak arteries) at only two months old. The very next day, 13 June, we were rushed back to Southampton in a helicopter and Bella was readmitted back onto PICU. Just under a month later, she was fitted with a tracheotomy, a device which helps her to breathe. After another three months on the High Dependency Unit, we are now on the Paediatric Medical Unit waiting for Bella to have her second open heart surgery to fix the hole in her heart.
I have been staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Southampton since Bella was born, on the 20 April 2017 and it has been a godsend. When I first came to the House, I expected just that, a house with a couple of rooms and nothing else. The Ronald McDonald House is so much more than that, I was so overwhelmed when I saw my room that I cried! They have kitchens, playrooms and more. I have started saying ‘I am going home’ when I leave the hospital, as the House really has become my home and my room is a safe place where I can just relax and rest for a while. I live in Bournemouth (though I recently moved there from Spain) and I don’t drive so getting to and from the hospital every day would be impossible. Without my room here I would have been sleeping with an overnight bag in a chair next to Bella’s bed, not to mention I wouldn’t be able to shower!
There have been so many good things about staying here including the facilities and the staff. The main thing though is that Bella’s big sister Jasmine who is six years old, is able to come over to visit, she loves the House! She came to the recent jungle party and had a great time and it meant I got to spend time with her, all the while knowing that Bella was only two minutes away.
My other favourite thing about being here is the friendships I have made. Many of the parents have now left but we still see each other and talk on the phone all the time. I love being able to talk to people who know exactly what I’m going through as they are in the same situation. We all understand each other and have a laugh too, I even got to go to see Grease with two of the other mums.
Though Bella is doing fine, I know that we will be unable to go home for a while. This means I’ve had to look ahead, and that includes thinking about Christmas at the Ronald McDonald House. It probably sounds strange but I am really looking forward to it as my whole family will be together for the first time. I have family and friends coming here from Spain and London for a big family dinner, which my mum has even offered to cook. It will be just like being at home. And the best thing is that hopefully Bella will be able to come over too for a couple of hours to have some time with all her family and open her Christmas presents. It will be amazing to get her out of the hospital for a while as she’s spent all her life there so far. The fact is that with the Ronald McDonald House there is no way we could achieve this and that is what makes it such a special place.
I know that my family and I are welcome at Ronald McDonald House for as long as I need them and at Christmas that will be a gift.