Jana Reichert had just given birth to her son, Ellis, in Bakersfield, CA when suddenly, he began having complications. The doctor gave them unfortunate news, the symptoms he was showing were more severe than they had anticipated and Ellis would have to be airlifted to Valley Children’s Hospital. While he was being airlifted, Jana and her husband Josh left town in a hurry with their oldest son, Avett, and headed straight towards the hospital.
The Reicherts knew exactly where to go when they got into town, a place they could seek shelter and comfort at, their first stop was the Ronald McDonald House. They entered the House and dropped into the seats at the registration desk. Joni, Family Services Coordinator, could tell by the look on their faces that they were in a state of despair and she wanted to do everything she could to put them at ease. She went through the check-in process and added them to the ongoing waitlist telling them that as soon as a room became available, she would let them know. They were able to stay a few nights in our spare room and as fate had it, four days later they were able to check into a room. From the beginning, they felt the House was going to be a place of stability during this unpredictable time in their lives.
Josh and Jana kept a positive outlook day to day coming to and from the hospital with Avett in tow. Sometimes, they would trade off staying at the House with Avett where he spent time being an average 3 year old, playing in the toy room and participating in the various activities our wonderful volunteers would come and host.
The Reicherts were so grateful that while they were facing a difficult time with their baby boy in the hospital, their other son was still able to be able to be a happy, carefree child. Another benefit for them was that both sets of grandparents were able to use the Day Room services while they were in town to help the family during their stay.
Ellis underwent heart surgery before he turned 1 month old and the Reicherts stayed with us while he was healing and getting strong enough to go home. The smile on Jana’s face one morning told us the good news. After 4 weeks at the hospital, the Reichert family would be going home with their healthy, happy “heart warrior” as they lovingly referred to him as.
Families like the Reicherts are a strong example of the impact the Ronald McDonald House makes on a family going through one of the most difficult times in their lives. From the first person they see when they arrive, to our caring volunteers, to the comfortable room they are able to get a moment of solace in at night.
A family coming from 2 hours away at a moment’s notice is able to find a “home away from home” just a short walk away from the hospital. We are so grateful for families like them that show us what a blessing it is to be able to keep families close to their child when they need it the most.