Today is McHappy Day at McDonalds, a day when profits from a number of their more famous items go to Ronald McDonald Charities. I admit I usually avoid McHappy Day like the plague.  It means McDonald’s will be McBusy which drives me McCrazy.  Also I like to carry an aura of someone far too healthy to eat at McDonald’s. This year, however, I am McThankful for McHappy Day, and I’d like to tell you why. (And after this I promise I am done with posts of this nature.  I think.)

In case you haven’t heard the story, the run down: In early August of this past year, I woke up to a hard phone call.  My sister was calling from Newfoundland to say that my dad and her two sons, my nephews, had been in a boating accident – and things looked bad.  My dad had broken a vertebrae in his back, among other injuries.  He was in the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s, fourth floor. My nephew Matt (14 at the time) had a kidney laceration and two skull fractures.  He was in the Janeway Children’s Hospital (thankfully, attached to the Health Sciences Centre) in Intensive Care, conscious, but very very serious.  My nephew Nic (16 at the time) was unconscious. He had suffered a blood clot in his brain that required brain surgery and was in ICU in the Health Sciences Centre (main floor).  So my sister and her husband, having arrived in Newfoundland from British Columbia to visit our parents less than 24 hours before, had BOTH their children in critical condition and a father in serious shape as well. My mother had her husband and two grandsons in hospital. I had my father and two nephews in hospital.  And even with many friends and family around us, it was a constant job supporting all of them.

Matt was in a lot of pain, and he could barely move and could not watch TV for the first few days as it hurt his head.  We tried to have someone with him as much as possible, and only family can go in the ICU.  Nic did not wake up for several days. His return to consciousness came in phases.  He began to move and flail about after a couple of days and he is strong.  One of us stayed with him all the time because he needed constant monitoring to make sure he did not pull out his IVs, even with a fulltime nurse.  And of course there was still my dad, who was having a battery of tests and assessments and needed support every day as well.

It was exhausting for me, and I can’t imagine what it was like for my sister and brother-in-law.  I literally lost 3 pounds in a less than a week from walking around the hospital so much (particularly impressive if you saw the food that people brought for us!). Deanne and Phil’s constant desire was to be near the boys.  They did not know at what moment Nic would wake up and they wanted to be there.  For the first two nights, they were able to stay in a family room at the hospital, but then another family needed it.  Deanne’s anxiety was palpable.  How could she not be near the boys during this season?  A bad turn could literally happen at any moment. Yes, we had lots of family and friends in the city – and many invitations to stay at houses if there was need – but even leaving the property was stressful.  A ten minute drive was a long distance at such a critical time.

Enter Ronald McDonald House.  RMH in St. John’s is right on the site of the hospital – you can walk door to door in less than five minutes.  When Deanne and Phil found out they could stay at RMH, you could physically see the weight lifted off of Deanne’s shoulders.  She would be able to stay right next to the boys. Keep in mind, at this point, Nic was still in a coma.  Matt was still in critical condition.  The idea of not being near them was inconceivable.

I am certain I will never forget that night that we entered RMH and got our tour. It was almost midnight and the volunteer at the door made us feel like we had come home.  She showed us the huge beautiful kitchen, stocked with food and space for anything we wanted to make ourselves. Seeing breakfast cereal was a thrill! After a few days of hospital cafeteria food, having a nice normal breakfast seemed like a treat. There were beautiful lounges, a library (with computers with internet access) and laundry.  (And if any of you know how Deanne packs for what she thought was a week’s vacation, that laundry was a big deal!  Two pairs of yoga pants can really only last so long…).  Then we saw the rooms. Oh, the rooms!  The room (with two beds – so space for sister Leanne, too!) was truly beautiful.  We felt like we were on a resort – and a good one to boot – and all for only $15 a night. We practically fell in bed that night, totally exhausted. By 7 a.m. Deanne was out the door again – the same routine she had every day for the next month, until the boys were finally able to go home.

I fell in love with Ronald McDonald House that August. I love what they did for us. Can you imagine being away from home and having both of your sons nearly die?  Can you imagine how much you would need a comfortable room that you could call your own?  Where you could unpack your (carry-on) suitcase, and buy your favourite breakfast cereal and go “home” each night? That’s what it did, and what it does, for thousands of families like ours every day. It was a gift of grace.

I guess I just wanted to say, on this McHappy day that I am, eternally, McGrateful.

And that, if you need an excuse to buy a Big Mac, today – you’ve got a great one!


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