At six years old, Josie’s pediatrician referred her and her family to a neurosurgeon. The startling realization that the symptoms she had been exhibiting since her birth were so serious it required testing with the neurology department, was something her entire family could not fathom.
At an age when kids are starting school, playing their first soccer games – or enjoying carefree bike rides, Josie and her family had to face the unimaginable fact that she had a tumour in her brain stem that had travelled both into her spine and fanned out throughout the rest of her brain. With a devastating diagnosis – her first surgery was scheduled and despite their best efforts – Josie awoke from that surgery to discover she had lost all mobility. Even breathing and swallowing put her in tremendous pain and Josie and her family knew that this was just the beginning.
Dealing with such a complex medical situation – her own family situation began to unravel all around her. Her sisters had to stay with family friends over 200 kilometers away from the hospital, while her parents stayed by her bedside, constantly worrying about their three girls, their finances, the present, and the future. “My family as we knew it dissolved into something that wasn’t familiar. My family was falling apart,” says Josie.
The family faced so many uncertainties and were worried about how they could come out of this nightmare remaining a family – but luckily it was then that their social worker was able to get them into the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton. Josie’s sisters were able to come to the House so they could all stay together as a family. The House became their new home, where they ate, slept, and played together. Josie says she was able to heal, surrounded by family, and for that she will always be grateful.
Gratitude is something that Josie lives and breathes – because 20 years later she joins a group of volunteers every week at the Ronald McDonald House to make delicious lunches for the Meals that Mend: Hospital Lunch Program. Volunteering is her way of giving back to the House she called home.
“In the end I survived, and so did my family. I am so thankful for the support and care given to so many families in their time of need,” says Josie.
As you celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend – we hope you are able to do so with family and friends. At the Ronald McDonald House we believe that keeping families close is the most important way we can help families during the most stressful times of their lives.