Being a parent should be full of joy and excitement, but for some Australian families, life becomes full of challenges if their children become ill.
Ronald McDonald House Charities ACT and South East NSW is a service supporting those parents, giving families a place to stay while their children are undergoing treatment.
Temora woman Meg Schmidt was one of those parents, spending several weeks in Ronald McDonald House accommodation after the birth of her twin daughters in June 2023.
“Kinsley was a twin, but her twin, who was called Ivy, passed away,” she said.
“I had no idea about Ronald McDonald House Canberra until I had my twins and I had nowhere to stay.”
Before the birth of her twin daughters, Meg was already living away from her community in the Riverina.
“I got sent to Canberra about a week before I gave birth and we were told that we would be in the NICU for about two months,” she said.
“But because I had pre-eclampsia, I was pretty much out of it with the medication, so I didn’t really think about accommodation or where we would be staying after I gave birth.
“When we were discharged, they told us about Ronald McDonald House Canberra and how we qualified.”
In Canberra, the House is located inside the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.
Meg stayed at Ronald McDonald House Canberra for roughly six weeks, before being transferred to RMHC’s Wagga Wagga counterpart.
“For the first few days after I gave birth, I was a bit out of it because I’d had a C-section,” she said.
“By the time I got to Ronald McDonald House, things finally settled in and we understood what was happening.
“With the bed, we could really focus on what was happening with Kinsley and how we could move on.”
“It gave us a bit of space to connect with Kinsley and get everything sorted on a medical level, which was amazing for us.”
Meg said the support that came during her stay at Ronald McDonald House Canberra – be it from the volunteers or the other parents – was key in making a hard time a little easier.
“Our time there was like a little community and everyone was so willing to help,” she said.
“If you had some questions about what was happening, you could talk to anyone because we were all in the same boat.
“I’m still in contact with some of the mothers I met there, and we talk about our experiences.”
“You could actually have a conversation about the milestones that happen with the other parents, or have a chat with the staff who had an understanding of what you were going through.”
It is important that the community comes together to support services like this, Meg said.
“Your donation definitely does help mums and dads who were in our position,” she said.
“It gives families somewhere to stay where they can be financially stable when they come home since they don’t have to pay for accommodation and other expenses.
“The support of the community in being able to keep that going really does help.”
You can support the work of Ronald McDonald House Charities ACT and South East NSW in their upcoming charity fine-dining dinner, called Meet the Makers, which will feature a three-course meal, raffles, local winemakers, and an opportunity to hear about the impact the charity makes on local businesses, families and volunteers.
The Meet the Makers dinner will be held on 15 November from 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm at the National Arboretum in Canberra.
Tickets cost $175 and can be purchased online, with all money raised to be put towards the charity’s programs supporting seriously ill children and their families.