It was not easy leaving Braden during this time. We never left him at night if he had had a bad day. We only left his bedside when we knew he was fine and sleeping well. Although leaving him was the hardest thing we did, everyone in our life was telling us to leave and spend time with one another. I do believe to this day, that those nights we had alone, to ourselves help save our marriage. We managed during the hardest times in our life to stay connected.
In 1995, I had a car accident that left our 15 month old son paralyzed from the neck down. He was in grave condition for 72 hours, and if he were to have survived this tragedy he would be left a quadriplegic with only movement in his eyes.
We were in the middle of a catastrophic life event, and we were just young parents. Both of us on the verge of starting out in our chosen careers, seeking our own family values and finding our way as new parents.
That day however, our lives changed forever. This post is not about that, this post is dedicated to the support, encouragement and shelter the Ronald MacDonald House provided us initially and then he many years that followed.
These pictures were taken back when Kailey was just one years old (she is 22 today) and Braden (25 yrs old) would have been three. This would have been about 2 years post accident. We were asked to pose for some pictures at the Ronald McDonald House, they were using them in some of the bedrooms as framed pictures. They had chosen to photograph some of the early families that stayed at the Ronald MacDonald House back when it was fairly new to Hamilton.
You can see in the top picture we were in the dining room, Paul and I as well as my parents had spent many hours in that dining room. We have always had Sunday family dinners and thankfully for the most part during our first 4 month stay we continued that tradition. My Uncle Wayne was always wonderful with that, he would come up to the hospital with meals cooked for us…he always made his delicious spagetti. It really was a treat for our family. We had a good meal, time together and managed to continue on with a regular thing in our lives. The bottom left we were in one of the bedroom’s, I remember being so thankful for this place. It was a place were we could retreat, have some quiet time. I had a warm, comfortable bed, a shower and place to rest my weary head and hope to sleep for even a few hours without the worries of the world on my mind. We didn’t spend much time in there, but it was the best place we could have ever been. It just provided a sense of home. It was away from the hospital, away from the bells and whistles…but still close enough to Braden. The bottom right, was in the games room. They had a pool table, ping pong table, tv’s, video games and Foose Ball table. Paul and my dad use to have tournaments all the time, it was so great for them to be able to blow off some stream and stress and have some fun. They managed to still bond together and when some people came to visit we could sign them into the Ronald McDonald house and bring them to the games room to have some fun.
In all honesty, the Ronald McDonald House was a life saver. I don’t know what Paul and I would have done without this place. Every night we would tuck Braden into bed…usually we’d get out by 11:30pm..on a good night. We’d go for a drive around Hamilton, just to settle down and unwind..we’d talk, this was usually when we would discuss our new life, try to understand and comprehend all the new changes. There was a restaurant down the road from MacMaster Hospital and some nights we’d head down there and share some wings..they were the best wings ever. I remember sitting in that restaurant, watching other people in there laughing and joking, smiling, snuggling and talking about their jobs, their kids..their lives. It was painful, I hated it. I hated that they were so happy…and we were not. I envied them, I was so jealous that they could laugh, and enjoy the time they were having. NOT us, we were sad.
I remember Paul would try so hard to keep things positive. He worked so hard to get me to smile, even though I was unbelievable sad sitting in that restaurant booth, realizing that not one person knew our son was sleeping still in a hospital bed on life support…those moments were some of the hardest. I was 23 years old, we didn’t deserve this much sadness.
Some nights Paul and I would drive to the highest peak of the Hamilton mountain just so I could get out of the car, stand tall and pray for strength. It would be as late as 1am. I would stand there…car pulled over to the side of the road, Paul sitting on the front of this car and I would walk to the edge of the mountain, look to the stars and wonder…”Is he there?” “Is God listening to me?”…I am as high up as possible, can you hear my prayers.
We’d get back in the car, and sometimes I would scream, cry…beg for a miracle. Then i’d tire..which I am sure was Paul’s favorite time of the day…and we’d head back to the Ronald McDonald House and off to bed we would go. Thankfully we had that bed…cause as years followed and Braden got older, we didn’t leave him often and poor Paul was stuck with night shift. Many years spent in a chair at the side of his hospital bed while Braden fought once again for his life.
When these pictures were taken, Braden was healthy..it was a good visit. I believe we only had Kailey stay at the house with us one time and maybe only for a week. Sometimes during long hospital stays I would miss her trememdously. I wanted her to be with us, it wasn’t really a place for her. So we didn’t keep her there long…she always went with Nana and Papa.
We were very fortunate to have that room, it was comforting to know that others that were staying in the house with us were going through the same kind of thing. I will never forget that place, I can say it really was a foundation for us, and escape…a place to lay, a place to pray~
Until tomorrow my friends, good night and god bless~