Meet the Kloosterschmuck Family

From Nanaimo, BC

In April of 2023, Sara and Annika Kloosterschmuck were preparing to welcome their second child Harper, when they received news they never expected to hear. An ultrasound revealed that Harper had a condition called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, or CDH, and her right lung was collapsed. The family was immediately told to go to BC Children’s and Women’s Hospital, where Harper would need intensive care at birth.
 
“We had no plan,” remembers Sara. “It was so out of the blue.”

https://6pibb8.p3cdn2.secureserver.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Kloosterschmuck-640x834-1.jpg?time=1721848744

They immediately left work and travelled to Vancouver with many questions still unanswered, such as where could they stay with their 2-year-old son Theo. Annika had family in Abbotsford who were happy to help, but with Sara’s high-risk pregnancy, she couldn’t take the chance of being so far from the hospital. “It would have pulled the family apart,” says Annika. “That’s the beautiful part of Ronald McDonald House: keeping the whole family together through a stressful time.”
 
The family would stay for 2 and a half months, as Harper was born on May 3rd and then spent 60 days in the NICU.
 
From the beginning of their stay at RMH BC & Yukon, they knew that they were right where they needed to be. At every stage of the family’s journey, from high-risk pregnancy to the NICU, there was always someone who could relate. “It was nice in the sense that there were always people to chat with if you wanted to, but you have your own home base for days when you just wanted to keep to yourself,” says Annika. “Everyone’s very understanding because they are all going through something similar.”
 
Staying in an environment with kids and families was also very uplifting for the Kloosterschmucks. “Seeing the kids run around together, you know their families are going through something major or they’re not feeling well, but they all just light each other up!” says Sara. “It was cool to see them playing basketball outside until 9:00 PM, like they would at home.”
 
During their stay it was the simple everyday things that made all the difference, such as the gym, a great stress-buster, or the safe underground parking. When Theo came to visit, the House was a magical place for a toddler. He loved to visit the big bear statue in the lobby, the slide and the mechanical helicopter, and play on the scooters in the sport court. He also never missed checking out the colourful rocks at the front entrance!
 
The Food Programs at RMH BC & Yukon were essential in easing their stress, allowing them to keep groceries on hand while also enjoying volunteer-prepared Family Meals. “They made it so you didn’t have to think about food that day,” says Sara. “It also made it feel more like home, having home-cooked meals!” The volunteers who baked every day helped contribute to this homey feeling, and the Kloosterschmucks made sure to enjoy a fresh-baked treat every day.
 
The Family Meals Program also helped provide an unexpected glimpse of hope for the future. Sara remembers a meal cooked by a firefighter whose daughter had stayed at RMH BC & Yukon, and who was now healthy at home. “It was nice to see it come full circle – people coming back after their medical journeys and giving back to the organization.”
 
When Harper was finally discharged from the hospital, Sara and Annika remember it took some time to settle back in to life at home. “Life at home is more complicated than life at RMH,” they say with a smile. “They made it possible for us not have to think about regular life stuff, so we could focus on Harper.”
 
When they have the chance, the Kloosterschmucks would like to pay it forward. “If you have a donation to make, I don’t think it could go to a better cause,” says Sara. “Supporting families who have sick children is the best you could do with any extra you have to give. Until you actually need the care and services that RMH provides – and we didn’t have a full understanding of it until we did – you don’t know how supportive it is. It opened our eyes so much. There were no gaps, nothing that RMH didn’t think of. Everything we needed at that time was there.”
 
Annika adds, “You never expect to be those people who need it, and without donations, it wouldn’t be possible.”