August 17, 2016
Grandma Faye is making a difficult journey a little easier for Madelyn and her parents.
Grandparents are wonderful for so many reasons. They give the best hugs, they always remember birthdays and they’re great support when times get tough.
The Andrews family from Lewins Cove, Nfld. knows this better than most. Aaron, Cheryl and their two-year-old daughter, Madelyn, have unexpectedly relocated to Toronto while their infant daughter, Claire, waits for a heart transplant. The family is coping as best they can, largely thanks to Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto and two very loving sets of grandparents.
Claire was born in November 2015 with an underdeveloped heart. She had heart surgery shortly after her birth, and doctors said she’d require at least two more. In April 2016, Claire’s parents and sister, along with grandparents Faye and Brian Andrews, came to Toronto for her second procedure, but things did not go as planned. Claire’s heart was not strong enough for surgery and she was moved to the critical care unit. She required a heart transplant and her family would not be going home anytime soon.
“Even though it was hard to be told that we would be away from home long term, we were going to do anything we needed to for Claire,” says Grandma Faye.
In June, the Andrews family moved to nearby RMHC Toronto with Grandma and Grandpa in tow. Cheryl’s parents, Darlene and Clifford Grandy, arrived shortly after to switch off with Faye and Brian, a rotation they plan to maintain as long as necessary. With Claire requiring care at her bedside and Madelyn needing to maintain a sense of normalcy, their grandparents are helping Aaron and Cheryl meet the needs of both daughters as best they can.
“When Aaron and Cheryl are at the hospital with Claire, we are at the House with Madelyn, and vice versa,” says Darlene. “We try to all be here for supper, then mom and dad do Madelyn’s bedtime routine with her before returning to Claire.”
“We try to keep Madelyn’s world as normal as possible,” says Faye.
RMHC Toronto has many families staying here who are fortunate to have similar support. Faye says nurses at the hospital have noted the positive impact consistent family presence has on patients like Claire. And having just returned to RMHC Toronto for the first time since June, Faye has also noticed a huge difference in Madelyn.
“Madelyn has always been quiet and shy,” she says. “Now she’s like a little star! Everywhere we walk at the House, staff and volunteers are saying ‘Hi Madelyn!’ and she’s introducing me to all of her new friends. She loves it here.”
Madelyn with grandparents Clifford and Darlene.
That’s been a huge relief to Madelyn’s whole family as they try to balance time with both daughters.
“One of the most beneficial aspects of RMHC Toronto is how the activities and programs cater to kids,” Faye says. “If Madelyn is content, mom and dad can be content.”
While it’s unlikely that Claire’s condition will improve, she is stable and doing well while she waits for her transplant. She was just released from the critical care unit, meaning her older sister will get to come for more visits.
Regardless of how long the Andrews family is in Toronto, both sets of grandparents are committed to being by their side. As Darlene says, “We wouldn’t be anywhere else.”