In February of this year, 14-year-old Erin was admitted to Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, waiting for a liver transplant.
Erin has a rare liver disorder which doesn’t allow her to process protein; a battle which she’s been fighting for most of her life.
When the Hamilton family got the call that a liver was available, they left the Ronald McDonald House in Calgary to go to Edmonton, where Erin received her new liver just a few weeks ago.
Erin spent most of 2020 in and out of hospital, which meant the Hamilton family spent quite a bit of time away from their home in Lethbridge.
After a total of 69 nights in the Calgary House, the Hamilton family is now based out of the Edmonton House while Erin recovers from her transplant surgery.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” Mom Melanie says. “It’s a home away from home.”
“The Ronald McDonald House really makes it so that you can rely on them for extra support – they make sure your emotional wellbeing as a parent is taken care of.”
“The Ronald McDonald House is the one place where you can be ‘unmedical’,” Melanie explains. “It provides a sense of normalcy when you have no normalcy.”
“I call it the ‘RMH bubble’,” she adds. “Where unless you’ve stayed there, you can’t understand how good it feels to be there.”
The Hamilton family has been separated a lot this year, due to COVID-19 and the fact that Erin has two older sisters staying back home in Lethbridge with their Dad. In fact, they’ve only had the opportunity to have one family dinner together since Erin was admitted in February – and it was in the Calgary House, when Erin’s Dad and two sisters came to visit.
“It was our first day of normalcy this year,” Melanie says. “The House afforded us the opportunity to be together all five of us, which we won’t be able to do again until Erin goes home in July.”
When asked what the Hamilton family would have done without the Ronald McDonald House both in Calgary and Edmonton, Melanie says her stress would have increased by a “thousandfold”.
“It would have been an extraordinary burden – mentally, emotionally, financially,” she says. “The House is the one consistent thing in my day, the one thing I can rely on.”
“It’s my cocoon,” she says.
“It’s nice to be somewhere together that’s not a hotel,” Melanie adds. “We can make our own routines, have our own space, and once she’s discharged Erin can feel like a normal teenager again.”
“When you’re in the House and there are other people that are going through the same things, there is a level of empathy that you wouldn’t get sitting by yourself every night in a hotel or Airbnb.”