Posted by: trevormeers | October 24, 2010

Paying It Forward…

The Iowa City Ronald McDonald House called to ask if we’d share our story in their annual fall fund-raising letter. Naturally, we’re glad to talk about our experience if it can help other families down the road. You FOKs (Friends of Katie) already know the tale, but I thought you might enjoy a sneak peek at the condensed version of the story that’ll soon reach a few more folks:

The first time I slid into a chair in the office of the Iowa City Ronald McDonald House, I had a hard time listening to the friendly young woman checking me into a room for the night. One hour earlier, a neurosurgeon at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital told us that my 7-year-old daughter Katie needed spinal surgery to relieve pressure on her brain stem. He said to plan on 10 hours in the operating room, and at least three weeks of recovery in the hospital. And he wanted to do it right away.

Katie and mom about 10 days after surgery.

The doctor’s assistant handed me a brochure for the Ronald McDonald house, and I stumbled up the hill to the house while my wife settled into a hospital room with Katie. At home in Des Moines, I drive by the RMH every day after work. On countless visits to Katie’s medical team in Iowa City, I’d driven by this very house. Almost every time, I wondered whether our path and the house’s were bound to cross.

And suddenly on this Wednesday evening, the RMH had switched from a place for other families, to a place for ours. The house that others had been building and maintaining for years with little notice from me was, on the day we needed it, waiting with the lights on. I tried to concentrate as I learned the rules of the group kitchen, toured the laundry room and heard about the daily chore assigned to each room.

Katie’s surgery came and went, and our older daughter joined my wife and I at the house. We quickly came to enjoy sleeping with the windows open, letting rustling trees replace the beeping monitors that filled the rest of our day. We started the days with breakfast on the deck and sometimes had lunch in the gazebo. We usually walked the half-mile back and forth to the hospital, using the time to review Katie’s progress and give each other pep talks.

Katie and big sister Allison back home and getting on with life.

Best of all, we spent our time at the RMH among others who knew what our experience was like. Instead of living out of a hotel filled with people heading to a sales call or a vacation, we were in a house with people who looked just as tired as us and were riding the same “What did the doctor say today?” roller coaster. One evening in the group kitchen, a dad walked over and said, “Do you want this seasoning? We’ve been here six weeks, and today our baby gets to go home.” I took the little bottle of spice like a torch being passed. And when Katie got out of the hospital a few days earlier than expected, I tucked the bottle into a cabinet, leaving a little something for the next family in line.



  1. Yet another great post! (Katie looks so happy!)

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