The night was like any other. I washed my face, I brushed my teeth, I texted my goodnights, I turned on my heating pad hoping it would help with my abdominal pain and I went to bed. But then 12:30am hit and I had been woken up due to what felt like a continuous stabbing sensation in my right abdomen – now this had happened once or twice before but after over two hours of it I knew it was time to call my mom. The wonderful women that she is, within 15 minutes of my conversation on the phone with her she was in the car and on route to London (it really wasn’t much of a conversation, it consisted of me sobbing and her trying to comprehend what I was saying).
Once she arrived, we made it to emerge and I was admitted to the hospital around 6:30 that morning. What followed was one of the worst weeks of my life – I really do not feel the need to relive the series of events but it did change me and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family close by. Prior to my hospital visit, I was already so fed up with the reality I was forced to live and this was just the icing on the cake. I realized it was time to make a choice: I could give up or give back. I could let the pain overtake me and let exhaustion silence me or I could fight back and possibly help others along the way.
I’ve learned how important it is to have loved ones close by in times of need. Although I was 19, I was entirely helpless. Simple tasks like raising a fork to your mouth to eat were so exhausting that they couldn’t be completed without needing an hour long nap afterwards and I don’t know what I would have done if my parents and boyfriend weren’t there to give me constant support.
On the fourth night of my hospital stay, one with about two hours of sleep I made the choice that when I felt like my health was somewhat under control I would give back. I’ve recently become a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House. A charity I believe very strongly in – I’m considered an adult yet when I have a sick day all I want is my mom. (I mean, don’t we all?) I couldn’t imagine going through what these sick children do. The House’s vision is “to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families” while they strive towards a world where all children have access to medical care, and their families are supported and actively involved in their children’s care. In London, we embrace the idea of a ‘home-away-from-home’. The house is lucky to be only 165 steps away from the Children’s Hospital, which allows parents to be there for their sick child while they get the care they need.
Through this experience, I’ve met families and children with stories far beyond mine and with hearts beyond their ages.
For parents, it’s the promise of being close to their children in times of need. It’s the promise that they can run down for a coffee when they need a break or a hot shower to clear their head. It’s the promise of assurance and reassurance and it’s the promise of understanding and companionship. It’s the promise that when everything does not go as planned, they are not alone.
For me, it’s the promise of a reason to get through every bad day and appreciate every good day. The promise of a reason to persevere and the promise of knowing that love and support are profound gifts – to give and to receive. I always thought that giving back would consist of strictly helping others but it has helped me more than I could have ever anticipated.
Who knew that simple tasks like prepping rooms, greeting guests, handing out coffee, making others feel comfortable and ‘at home’ in their time of need, something similar to what I had previously experienced, could give me more restoration and relief than any medication could offer.
My illness has altered and taken away certain aspects of my life but they will never take away my drive, love and ability to give back. So as long as another child is forced to fight a battle they shouldn’t have, I will be there. Through this past year and a half of being chronically ill, I’ve learned many lessons. But I’m beginning to realize the greatest lesson I could learn is within myself – through the power of love and two open arms.
Want to learn more? Ronald McDonald House Charities
Interested in giving? Day of Change – Gratitude