Bently Warren was born premature and has dealt with croup, bronchiolitis, and constant visits to the hospital since birth. For a year his parents Jennifer and Chris searched for answers, and Bently was finally diagnosed with a rare narrowing of his airway which has caused many other respiratory issues along the way. Doctors needed to operate, but Bently was not big enough for the procedure.
A year later Bently has grown enough for surgery, but since his home of Clandonald, Alberta, is too far from the hospital in Edmonton, Bently and his family moved in to the Ronald McDonald House.
Major changes can happen to a family when a child is sick. Relocation, economic challenges, loss of support, isolation and less time for self-care are regular occurrences. For the Warren family sometimes the biggest advantage of being a House family is simply having a roof over their heads. Had they not been placed in the House, the Warren’s would have been in a hotel room which lacks not only the community feel and support, but also provides another financial burden.
Since his journey began the Warrens have faced that financial burden by staying in hotels when they needed to travel for Bently.
“We have been in and out of the hospital for two years and always heard about the House, but we never walked in. From the moment I entered the House I was overwhelmed by how welcoming and warm it felt,” says Jennifer.
Jennifer and Chris are grateful to have a safe and clean environment for Bently who is preparing for surgery, but what they didn’t expect was how many programs were in place to support their whole family. The Warrens’ ten-year-old daughter Hailey is also staying at the House, and keeping her life as normal as possible is a huge priority for Jennifer and Chris.
When Hailey is in Edmonton she attends school in the Ronald McDonald House classroom like she would back at home. The teacher keeps in close contact with Hailey’s teacher back home making sure that Hailey keeps up with her classmates. Hailey recently took her hometown classmates on a virtual tour of the Ronald McDonald House, telling them about her favourite programs and introducing them to her new friends at the House.
Bently and Hailey have bonded with other House Heroes, and Jennifer and Chris have found a support system in the House through a network of other families. They can sit down in the kitchen for a cup of coffee surrounded by other families who have a mutual understanding of the difficulties that come with having a sick child.
In addition to their House community, the Warrens have loved the programming provided right within our walls. Because many services are brought directly to the House like haircuts, a shuttle to the hospital, and home-cooked meals, families can spend more time together making memories. Jennifer expressed that our volunteer-led playtime program has kept her children busy and focused on fun. Hailey loves the playtime program so much so that she sees herself returning in the future to volunteer!
The holiday season is a time of celebration, but it can be hard to feel festive when you’re far from home. At the House we decorate and celebrate to lift every family. Hailey has been especially looking forward to the holiday season at the House since the family moved in in early November, putting on her jingling antler headband every chance she gets! The Warrens have helped decorate the House, painted ornaments on field trips, and even had their picture taken with a special guest from the North Pole.
Bently is still waiting for his surgery date but it’s safe to say that the Warren family is embracing life at the Ronald McDonald House, and enjoying the time they can spend together as a family over the holidays.