Christmas is a magical time. But not everyone is having the best day, filled with laughter, kindness and loved ones.
Tony Maguire, who spent 89 days in free ‘home away from home’ accommodation (Ronald McDonald House Camberwell) when his child was very ill, shares the story of his last Christmas below:
Christmas is the most magical time of the year. Spending time with family, seeing children smile and having a few special surprises is what it is all about…… and for us, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) kept that magic alive!!
Our baby boy Noah was born on 16 October 2016 and within a short time the reality of not having a ‘normal’ Christmas became quite apparent. Friends and family started to ask us what we were going to do, but with everything going on at the hospital, Christmas seemed like an eternity away and to be truthful, an inconvenience.
As December 25th approached, the tide felt like it started to turn. We made our peace with not being at home for Christmas, and the amazing people at “the little house”, as our three year old Luke called it, really started to change our approach. He was referring to our en-suite room, not the whole 24 bedroom property).
The Christmas decorations went up and the homely, warming, caring place where we were staying suddenly turned into a winter wonderland in every communal room you went….. the magic of Christmas was alive! The lovely people running the House got us in the Christmas spirit and made us realise we had to make the most of it.
Feelings of guilt and being torn between our baby in hospital and our three-year-old at the House would frequently attack us. Then every time we had that feeling, there was something to put our mind firmly back where it should be: the decorations, the dinner, the smiles and laughter, children playing with their toys. It was never going to be the easiest of situations, but the staff at the House went above and beyond – and even recreated the magic!!
Ronald McDonald House Charities shared some special reindeer dust on Christmas Eve so Father Christmas and his Elves didn’t forget about all the boys and girls that wouldn’t be in their normal homes that year. That was sprinkled outside and then the shortest sleep of the year commenced. The big day arrived and I can honestly say we had a great day. The reindeer dust worked as Luke woke to presents and a Mummy and Daddy that felt an abundance of mixed emotions – but were just about keeping it together at this point!
We had a lovely letter under the door from Ronald McDonald House Charities wishing us a Merry Christmas and saying that there was a surprise downstairs for the children. We opened our door to find that Father Christmas had also left a beautiful hamper for us and more presents for Luke and Noah…. I suspect this was with help from the staff running the house.
We went downstairs to the main dining room and students from a local sixth form were there with the hugest smiles, silly Christmas outfits, even more presents and…… a snow machine!!!! We really couldn’t believe the thought and effort these had put in to make our Christmas a special one. This selfless act really made us realise that although we weren’t there by choice due to Noah’s condition, we were however very lucky!!
Some of our family arrived at this point so Jane and I were able to go and see Noah together and pop back many times throughout the day with the family also. The nurses at King’s College Hospital neonatal intensive care unit even wore reindeer hats, sparkly outfits and great big grins!
A big tradition of Christmas is obviously the dinner. Well to say we were taken aback by the kindness of the House would be an understatement. The wonderful Maureen arrived at the house at 8am on Christmas morning, when everyone else was still sleeping, to cook various meats for all the families’ Christmas dinner. We then added the trimmings but all the hassle and hard work had been taken away. Thank you Maureen!!! Also a thank you must go to Julie Nottingham from Tesco in the Old Kent Road who kindly donated the meats! The House Manager Melissa was buzzing around spreading Christmas cheer and giving cuddles, the day simply wouldn’t have been the same without her and the unbelievable efforts of many others.
As I mentioned earlier, “Christmas is a magical time of the year and Ronald McDonald House Charities kept that magic alive”. The memories of that day will never be forgotten. Even thinking about it again now brings a huge smile to my face and I truly cannot thank RMHC enough for everything they have done for us – not only on Christmas day but before and after also.
P.S. After 12 ½ weeks in hospital, Noah came home safe and sound and we are enjoying life as a little family of four 🙂
All our love
The Maguires (Jane, Tony, Luke and Noah) – 89 days in RMHC
Ronald McDonald House Charities is an independent charity that provides free ‘home away from home’ accommodation at hospitals across the UK. The 14 Ronald McDonald Houses at children’s specialist hospitals across the UK, and in 2016 provided accommodation to over 7,000 families. The Charity relies on the generosity of supporters and fundraisers, without whom it would be unable to continue its work.