Ronald McDonald House is a nurturing and magical home-away-from-home for seriously ill children and their families, and for the Jayawickreme family, the word “magical” couldn’t be more true.
On October 10, 2014, 4 year-old Maisie Jayawickreme, along with dad Das and mom Amy, were rushed from Nanaimo to BC Children’s Hospital with a rare side effect of Enterovirus D68: she was paralyzed in her right arm, neck, and trunk. Doctors were unsure how much movement she would recover, and if she would walk again.
In the midst of this incredibly stressful time, a social worker at BC Children’s Hospital recommended that Das and Amy stay at Ronald McDonald House. “I burst into tears when I walked in the door,” remembers Amy. “I was overwhelmed at how beautiful it was and how comfortable it was, and on the door it said ‘Welcome Home.’”
For Das and Amy, the House reduced stress by providing the simple things: a fully-stocked laundry room, a hot shower, a comfortable bed, TV and internet. Unlike at a hotel, they had a support network of other families with hospitalized children, and often a dinner prepared by volunteers at the end of a long day. Most importantly, when they came back to the House for a rest, they were only 5 minutes away from Maisie. The Jayawickremes even felt comfortable enough to bring their son Noah, Maisie’s elder brother, every weekend from Nanaimo to Ronald McDonald House to keep the family unit together. “It is well known that the best therapy is family therapy,” said Das and Amy.
When Maisie was well enough for day and weekend passes, the House was a safe place for her to play and volunteer-led activities helped her to thrive. She also loved the Magic Room, an interactive forest-themed room where children can communicate with 3-D animal friends and affect their surroundings simply by scanning a stuffed toy. The room was the perfect place for her to practice sitting upright, watching the onscreen forest while her cousins scanned toys to help her explore.
One day, a day that Das and Amy describe as quite literally magical, the family was in the Magic Room as usual helping Maisie to practice sitting up. Then, they couldn’t believe what they saw: Maisie began to stand up, found her balance, and started walking!
The Jayawickremes were able to go home and continue treatment in Nanaimo, but will always hold a special place in their hearts for RMH BC and the Magic Room.