When Teresa Bradley was just 18 weeks pregnant with her son, Rayden, doctors informed she and her husband, Michael, that Rayden had been diagnosed with Spina Bifida. 12 short weeks later, Teresa’s water broke and she and Michael traveled to Chapel Hill, about two hours away from their home in Plainview, North Carolina.
After Rayden was born, he stayed in the NICU for 32 days. This is when the Bradley family was introduced to the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill.
“When I arrived at the RMH for the first time, I was so stressed because I was forced to leave my baby in the NICU. He had already had two surgeries, and I did not want to leave him. The people at the front desk were very understanding, sympathetic, and inviting. They made sure we had everything we needed (even a breast pump). I could store milk in the fridge. We could eat anything in the kitchen or wait for the family meals. We could wash clothes and even take the little bus back to the hospital, so we didn’t have to fight traffic or walk a lot in the cold. My feet were super swollen, and they even found me some extra-long socks for support. It was wintertime and all I could fit on my feet were bedroom shoes. That would never do. They even found me a pair of big, black tennis shoes.”
The Bradley family’s first stay at the Ronald McDonald House certainly would not be their last. Teresa said, “Spina Bifida is an umbrella for all kinds of other things. Rayden has bilateral clubbed feet, neurogenic bladder and bowel, massive hydrocephalus treated with a VP shunt, epilepsy, and many, many other things.” Rayden has had 16 surgeries thus far and many stays at the House.
“The Ronald McDonald House has been there for us over the past 6 years. When he was born the day before Christmas Eve, they even allowed my family from out of town to come into the RMH living room and have a little gift exchange, because I was not going to leave town without my baby. Often times we would go the night before his procedures, and Rayden could stay there as well. They always make a point to do something special for the families. Not just food and lodging. They have crafts, therapy dogs, etc. One time we stayed in December and they even had a Holiday party where Rayden was able to dance with storybook characters, make Christmas ornaments, decorate cookies, and meet other people. He always wears the room key around his neck and says, “I have the power!”
The Bradley family also enjoys using the RMH Family Room inside the hospital. “We have spent many, many nights in the hospital and the Family Room has been a safe haven for us. It has always been a wonderful place for my husband and his dad to escape to drink a cup of coffee and talk about things in private.”
“The room has always had little crayons and coloring books or little craft bags for the kids. They also give snacks and little handmade hats or scarves. This past time Rayden wouldn’t eat any of the hospital food and the Family Room went out of their way to get him Froot Loops and crackers.” Teresa said that the Family Room is so inviting and offers a wonderful space to relax outside of the clinical setting.
The Bradley family has many fond memories of staying at the House and visiting the Family Room, including meeting other families with similar journeys. “The RMH has supported us so much over the years. Rayden was born Dec 23, right before Christmas. I had already been hospitalized for 3 weeks prior to his birth. On Christmas day, the RMH delivered a GIANT white bag filled with gifts for Rayden. They made sure his first Christmas was one to remember even if he was only one day old!”
“Rayden looks forward to staying there for the peaceful atmosphere, but he also loves to visit the toy room and pick out a prize. He has many things he treasures from there.”
Teresa said that their family wouldn’t be able to stay close by when Rayden was having so many serious surgeries if it weren’t for the House. “We would have to leave home so early or get an expensive hotel room because we live so far away from the hospital.”
“The Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill is a little piece of home and a safe place to relax and get recharged. If you need anything at all, they will do everything they can to supply it.”
The Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill is honored to serve the Bradley family and looks forward to the joy and smiles they bring with each visit.