Three years ago Uma and Jay Kudumadillam emigrated from India to Canada, settling in Calgary, Alberta, to begin a new life full of promise. But when their newborn son’s liver began to fail, all hope of a bright, happy future vanished before their eyes.
Dathatreyan Kudumadillam was born with liver complications, and early in his life his parents were disheartened to discover that he would need a transplant. Uma experienced every mother’s worst nightmare when she learned that her liver was unsuitable for her son because it was too large. Not only was her baby sick, but she was helpless to do anything about it. The Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary does not offer liver transplant services for children, so the family was forced to travel to Edmonton. Finding themselves in an unfamiliar situation in an unfamiliar city, the couple felt isolated, lacking the support of their family and friends halfway around the world. As Dathatreyan’s condition worsened, Jay and Uma found themselves running out of options.
Fortunately, doctors found a donor for Dathatreyan.
The Kudumadillam family spending time together at RMHCNA.
Following Dathatreyan’s surgery the couple was introduced to Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern Alberta, initially visiting the House through use of the Day Pass Program. “It’s an amazing place,” says Uma. “I don’t have words to explain.”
Since moving in on April 1st, Jay and Uma have used almost every program that is offered at the House. These programs have greatly alleviated the stress and frustration the couple had grown accustomed to feeling over the course of Dathatreyan’s illness. Jay and Uma don’t have to worry about the isolation and financial burden that comes with staying in a hotel for months on end. They no longer stress about spending precious time away from their child in order to prepare nutritious meals. Now, the couple is able to focus on what truly matters, the recovery of their son.
RMHCNA has provided Dathatreyan with a safe and comforting environment, but what has impressed Jay and Uma the most throughout their stay has been the community of families, volunteers, and staff who offer constant support and encouragement. “We never feel that our baby is sick,” says Jay, “because we have a good environment here.” “And we don’t feel that we are isolated,” adds Uma, “because we are thinking that the staff and families are our family.”
The couple receives comfort and reassurance from other House families who share their experiences, knowing that they are not alone on their journey. “We’ve met lots of families here, and they’ve shared their experiences,” says Uma. “It’s helpful for realizing what we have.”
Jay and Dathatreyan getting ready to attend the RMHCNA Block Party.
It’s not only the House families that have made the Kudumadillam’s stay at RMHCNA unforgettable; the many volunteers that donate their time to the House have made an incredible impact on the family’s life. From cooking meals, to helping with Dathatreyan’s medical needs, Uma marvels at the dedication the House volunteers show. “They’re so helpful all the time,” says Uma. “They are all the time ready for anything. We don’t have to ask anything, they are just observing what the people need and they are doing that.”
Uma attributes Dathatreyan’s rapid progress to the constant social interaction that accompanies life at the House. In the past month Dathatreyan has crawled, stood, and grown stronger, and each time he accomplishes something new he can’t wait to show someone, be it a staff member, volunteer, or family member. “He wants to show off; he’s so motivated,” says Uma.
Dathatreyan playing at RMHCNA.
Anyone who is lucky enough to witness Dathatreyan’s shining smile would never know that only months ago his future was clouded in uncertainty, and although the road to recovery is difficult, Jay and Uma see a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. “We have started a new life in this House. We have lots of happiness in this House,” says Uma.
Dathatreyan will always know the Ronald McDonald House as his first home, the place where he learned to crawl, grew strong, and had his family by his side. Jay and Uma will always know the Ronald McDonald House as the place where their family was given a second chance. “I’ll never forget this House,” says Uma.
The Kudumadillam family are now back in Calgary, and although this farewell will be bittersweet, Jay and Uma know that it is time to take the next step in their journey. The couple has plans to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House in Calgary to offer comfort to other families who are going through difficult times. To remain positive during a medical crisis is challenging, and to remain positive when financial, cultural, and social barriers add to that burden is unimaginable. Jay, Uma, and Dathatreyan have faced these barriers and have grown stronger as a family because of them. Now they will use their experience to help others do the same