For now, T’nesha Davis calls the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill home. Her son, just a baby, was born 25 weeks early, weighing only 1 pound, 7 ounces.
While he receives critical medical care at UNC Hospitals, Davis said the Ronald McDonald House has proven to be a sanctuary for her family.
She watched on Tuesday as ground was broken on an expansion project that will enable the House to serve more families in need and provide them with support that goes beyond a place to call home.
“Knowing that this place is here is a blessing. It is a blessing,” Davis said.
She was pregnant with her second son and went in for a routine checkup when she found out some news that would change her family’s life.
The doctor told her that she had severe preeclampsia, a rapidly progressive life-threatening condition that affects both the mother and unborn child. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year.
Doctors told Davis that emergency surgery was necessary or both could lose their lives.
She traveled from Fayetteville, where she lives with her young son and husband who serves in the military, to Chapel Hill to seek medical care at UNC Hospitals.
After her successful operation, she later needed somewhere to stay while her infant son received the essential care he needed in Chapel Hill.
“It is not a place where it is a pity party. They are actually here to support you and to help you through this time. You can make a lot of new friends here. Don’t come in thinking that it is just a doomsday because your child is in the hospital. They are going to keep you going and uplift you,” Davis said.
Davis said in a matter of months, the House’s staff and fellow families became her support system.
“I wouldn’t have been able to be without my son and be far away from him. I’m a hands-on mom. I cry when I can’t be with him during the day because I have to be with my other son. But, having them [the Ronald McDonald House staff] and knowing that they can watch him—it’s a big extended family,” Davis said.
The House serves any family with a child who is receiving treatment at a local hospital and lives outside of a 35-miles radius of the medical facility, regardless of their ability to pay.
Though the House has helped more than 2,200 families of seriously ill or injured children, nearly 800 families are turned away each year due to lack of space. And this demand will only increase in the coming years as UNC Hospitals continues to expand.
In an effort to meet the growing need for its services, the House celebrated its groundbreaking ceremony on planned expansion that will double the facility’s current square-footage and increase the number of rooms from 29 to 53.
Shelley Day, Executive Director of the House, said it became apparent in 2009 that the expansion would be necessary.
“Frankly, we are all looking forward to late Spring 2015 when we will open and be able to say to every family who needs us, ‘Come on down, we have room,’” Day said.
Day was joined by other members of the community, including Woody and Jean Durham, to commemorate the beginning of a project that will impact so many lives. Durham was the longtime play-by-play radio announcer of the UNC basketball and football teams and the “Voice of the Tar Heels.”
The Durhams served as honorary co-chairs of the fundraising efforts for the expansion.
The House is also making history with a pediatrics palliative care pilot program called, “Loving Hands,” which provides care for children facing the end of their lives through a partnership with Hospice. It’s the first of its kind in North Carolina and in the global Ronald McDonald House network.
For more information on how you can donate to the Ronald McDonald House expansion project, visit the “MakeRoomForHope.com” website.