Amanda Craig heard of Ronald McDonald House as a kid going to McDonald’s. She remembers her mom placing her extra change in the little red container under the drive-through window.
She never fully understood what RMHC means for families until her world was flipped upside down when she found out the rainbow baby she was expecting had a full congenital heart block and would need to be delivered early at 28 weeks.
Soon after, Madelyn Pearl Craig, “Maddy,” was delivered via emergency c-section and was placed in the NICU. At just two days old, she had to have the first of many surgeries to place her first pacemaker.
After Maddy was born, her care team at UNC explained to the Craigs that the Ronald McDonald House is an incredible resource that provides lodging for families who have an inpatient child at UNC. Amanda said that her first impression of the House “was one of warmth. The House’s landscaping, interior and exterior décor, the breathtaking garden….all made us feel like we were in a warm home verses a cold and sterile hotel.” Amanda and her husband, Marshall, called RMH of Chapel Hill home for three months. Amanda said, “While nothing can replace home, RMH does a really great job of replicating a home away from home. We have been comforted by a home-cooked meal after eating hospital food all week long. We have had a place to rest and get some sleep when we were absolutely exhausted.”
Maddy’s condition is lifelong, and she will always require a pacemaker. At just two months old she had her second surgery to place an internal pacemaker. Her parents call their little red-headed girl their “firecracker” and “little fighter.” Amanda and Marshall finally got to take Maddy home right before Thanksgiving. They will make many return trips to Chapel Hill for follow up appointments and additional pacemaker surgeries.
When asked what this experience would have been like without RMH, Amanda remarked, “Without our stay at RMH, we would’ve gone into massive debt just trying to stay somewhere near our daughter. We also would’ve felt more alone not getting to meet the families we’ve met. I think it would have been a much more dire and bleak situation without getting to stay here.”
The Craigs favorite part of the House is the opportunity to chat and meet with other families and volunteers in the evenings after dinner. Amanda recalls, “getting that sustenance while also fellowshipping with those wonderful people added such a needed light to our days so many times. Also, all the times we’ve gone to the main House living room and gotten to sit on the floor petting a sweet and loving therapy dog just filled up our cup beyond measure.”
The Craigs look forward to when Maddy is older and they can return to the House to cook a meal for the families to repay the kindness and support they received in their greatest time of need.