One of the many things this experience has taught me (aside from the importance of being flexible!) is a tremendous respect for the families of premature infants. We've only been at this for a few days, but already, we are pretty physically and emotionally exhausted. We can't stay with him all the time, but are instead encouraged to come during his "care times." Every three hours, we can come change, feed, and generally bond with him before he goes back into his crib for some much needed rest and a light treatment for a bit of jaundice. This leaves two hour blocks in between for us to eat, run any errands we need to, and rest. I've never been so tired in my life, but at the same time, I've also never felt so strong and willing to sacrifice. I never realized how much having a baby could change you and I couldn't even attempt to put it into words.
While we're here, we've been fortunate enough to be accepted to stay at the Ronald McDonald House of Southwest Virginia. Growing up, I remember helping my Mom and Aunt (both nurses) do various charity projects for RMH and conducted a few myself throughout college and graduate school, but I never thought I'd be benefiting from this wonderful organization. If you're unfamiliar with RMH - for the past 36 years, Ronald McDonald House has been providing families of ill children the ability to stay close to the hospital where their child is admitted for low or no cost. The houses are like a hotel, but with a homier feel to them; there are individual rooms for families like a hotel, but there are also large public common spaces that are used and maintained by the guests (i.e. you can use the kitchen, just be sure to wash your dishes). They are mostly staffed by volunteers and funded by charity donations. Though we are only an hour away from the hospital, this week has been made infinitely easier by being able to stay next door to rest and grab a shower rather than commuting back and forth (especially with such little time between care times). How do you even begin to say thank you for a gift like that?
If you're interested in finding the Ronald McDonald house near you, there are constantly numerous volunteer opportunities available. Their website is http://www.rmhc.org/.
|Ronald McDonald House of Southwest Virginia