Meet the Paul Family

Meet the Paul Family

From Alkali Lake, BC

For the past year and a half, the Paul family has been staying at Ronald McDonald House while their 18-year-old son Tyson waited for a kidney transplant. Thanks to the community of support at RMH BC, they have been able to weather the storm and get to brighter days.

You have to
go through tough times to get to the good times.”

Like many families, the Paul family never thought they would need Ronald McDonald House, but they have called RMH BC their home away from home for two long stays. In 2011, they stayed at our 13-bedroom House before their son Nicholas (Nicky) passed away while battling leukemia.

In January 2019, they found themselves in Vancouver once again facing another medical emergency –their youngest son Tyson needed a kidney transplant. Until a match could be found, he needed dialysis treatments several times a week. At first, doctors hoped he could receive treatments at home, but he was rushed back to BC Children’s Hospital when those treatments failed. At that point, Tyson and his parents Zena and Jim realized they could be away from home again for months or even years.

In September 2019, Tyson started preparing for transplant with a busy schedule of checkups, tests and physiotherapy, and in summer of 2020, the Pauls finally got the call they were waiting for. Now, Tyson has successfully completed his transplant and the family is looking ahead to a new chapter in their lives.

“It was a lot of work and a lot of stress,” remembers Zena, and during their long journey they were grateful to stay at Ronald McDonald House. From their previous stay, they recognized some familiar faces and soon felt comfortable in the new House with its larger rooms and big kitchens. The Family Meal program helped to relieve stress when they didn’t have time to think about groceries, and so many details helped to make their lives easier – from the laundry room to fresh smoothies on Wednesdays to the location just steps away from the hospital.

Ronald McDonald House also provided space for their whole family to come together and support each other. Zena and Jim have two older children and a granddaughter, and at the House, the whole family could be together over the holidays and relax together in the arts and crafts room or games room.

At other times, life got in the way of the family being together. Jim needed to return home to work and Zena and Tyson were at the House alone for months at a time. While this separation was incredibly hard, the House provided activities to distract them from their worries.

Tyson enjoyed the chance to spend time with other teens, and for Zena, paint nights and the gym provided time for self-care. Meeting other families and seeing happy kids around the House also helped to make their world seem more normal. Zena has a fond memory of spontaneously grabbing a hockey stick to play with a kid on the sports court. “These are the things that helped me through the tough days and keep going,” she says. “It’s a moment just to be grateful for all the support you have and take your mind off of medical things. For one second, you just forget.”

In March 2020, COVID-19 changed the world and life at Ronald McDonald House. Without family visits and the usual group activities to keep them busy, it was a hard adjustment. “At first it was super quiet,” remembers Zena. “Everyone was spread out, and we didn’t go out – just to see our doctors and then back to our rooms.”

Throughout this new reality, Zena remained grateful to RMH BC. To keep families safe, the staff at the House was reduced to a small group of essential staff – and Zena appreciated how hard that small team worked to make sure families had everything they needed even at short notice. There were opportunities to book time in the arts and crafts room or the gym, and meals kept coming in with help from donors and restaurant partners. The gardens at the House offered up abundant harvests of fresh veggies, often so much food that Zena spent days getting creative using it all.  “Even though it was a bad few months, we were still provided with everything we needed,” she says, and when asked what she would change, she says confidently, “Nothing!”

Zena can’t even count the number of families she has met during her time at RMH BC, but she treasures the connections she has made, having been through so much side by side. And, she will always be grateful for their home away from home that got them through the toughest times. She has made it a personal mission to help spread the word about RMH BC: “People don’t know how much it means unless they’re actually here!”

Generous supporters like you give families like the Pauls a home away from home.