This week’s Courier Herald column:
This is the week of Thanksgiving. Most of Georgia has been spared political campaigns this week, save for some folks in DeKalb County facing a runoff for an open County Commission seat and those in North Fulton who now have a special election for the State House.
The rest of us, hopefully, have a week that we can spend to family and friends, and can focus on that which we are truly thankful. What we’re each thankful for is varied. Some, of course, have more to be thankful for than others. Some will settle for “at least we have our health”. And, unfortunately, too many cannot say that.
There is no place that you will find like the waiting room of a children’s hospital. They are simultaneously the saddest and happiest place on earth. For someone who has not had children I’ve spent an amazing amount of time with friends and relatives in waiting rooms of the hospitals that make up Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. I’ve seen amazing healing that can only be explained by powers not of this earth. I’ve seen excruciating pain that will make you question everything.
The people that staff places like this have to have a special calling and it shows. It’s difficult enough to have the medical training required. It’s more difficult still to apply that to a sick child. The level of difficulty only increases when they try to manage the care with extremely concerned and stressed out parents who only want their child well.
The majority of the patients seen at these facilities are for short-term stays, often as little as a couple of hours in the ER to diagnose a routine virus or set a splint for an over-eager tree climber. But for others, the challenges are more extreme and require more time for diagnosis, for ongoing treatment, surgery, and for healing.
Parents who suddenly find themselves needing long term medical care for their children often find that other concerns develop quickly beyond the medical condition of their child. Figuring out where to stay near the hospital and staying on a reasonable and predictable diet are but a few of them. Thankfully, there’s also well established charitable organization that attempts to fill that need.
The Ronald McDonald House Charities operate five chapters in Georgia managing six Ronald McDonald Houses. Those seeking extended medical care in Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah can take advantage of the houses, which allow for a place for families to stay, as well as eat many of their meals. They do their best to provide a home away from home during a very stressful time.
The Atlanta homes are a bit unique as they serve hospitals that draw families throughout the state to the pediatric specialists at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. As Georgia has grown, so has the need. Thus, the Atlanta chapter has recently broken ground on a replacement for it’s Scottish Rite home. The beds available will grow from 11 to 31 in an effort to better accommodate the need. The existing home has a 95% occupancy rate and 650 families have been turned away in the last three years because of a lack of space.
Over $15 Million of the $18.5 Million needed has been raised to date, with another $2.5 Million grant available provided that the remaining amount – slightly less than one million dollars – is raised by the end of the year.
Donations are being accepted under various campaigns. If anyone is looking for a stocking stuffer, perhaps a $100 raffle ticket from an Atlanta area BMW dealer would be a purposeful gift. The winner of the raffle will get a new 2015 convertible. More importantly, each ticket sold will get the charity closer to its goal.
For those outside of Atlanta, the Ronald McDonald houses closer to home would also appreciate your support. From monetary support to volunteer schedules to assist with meals, it takes a lot of effort to assist those who rely on the homes in their time of need.
Hopefully this Thanksgiving you and your family are healthy. For those who are not, may you soon find the path back to wellness. And for those who are, please remember those who have need, and assist where you can.
May you and yours be blessed during this week of Thanksgiving.