December 12, 2016
By Sylvia Pearson
On, April 5, 2016, my life completely changed. In a few short minutes, my husband and I were told that our 13-day-old son, Liam, would need a double lung transplant to survive, and that we’d have to leave our small Newfoundland town to go live in Toronto for the next six months to a year. Talk about a one-two punch.
I was terrified. I was living a mother’s worst nightmare and I had one day to prepare to uproot our lives. I was in no state of mind to do anything – my aunt literally had to pack my clothes for me – and all I could focus on was Liam’s health.
Just before we left Newfoundland in an air ambulance, we found out there was a room waiting for us at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto, a place I knew nothing about. I was so worried about Liam that where we would live in Toronto seemed inconsequential.
Looking back on that day, nine months later with a healthy Liam on my lap, I can’t believe there was a time that I took this place for granted. From the moment we arrived at the House, we were greeted with open arms. The staff are incredible, and the families we’ve met here have become our dear friends. Volunteers make meals for us so we don’t have to. When Liam was in the hospital, and I felt helplessly removed from my older son, my guilt was eased knowing he was at the House having the time of his life. (Editor’s note: Sylvia’s two-year-old son, Luke, stayed at the House on and off during their stay.)
My family lived through some of our darkest times at RMHC Toronto. At the beginning of May, Liam’s lungs began to deteriorate. He was on the donor list, but infant lungs are hard to come by. Doctors told us that if he didn’t receive a transplant by the end of June, he was going to die.
The support from House staff and volunteers was invaluable during that period of true despair. They were the people we celebrated with when Liam got a double lung transplant on May 31, and when we got to go home on Sept. 14. They’re the same people who welcomed us back with a smile this week when we returned for Liam’s follow-up appointments.
Liam is doing amazingly well. We just got some exciting test results: his biopsies and blood work were both great! It feels good to be back at RMHC Toronto under such different circumstances, and we will return every few months for appointments.
Yesterday I was in the kitchen, boiling water for Liam’s bottle, and I became overwhelmed with emotion. Christmas music played on the sound system, staff from the Toronto Blue Jays were making dinner in the next kitchen, and I just sat down at the table and cried. I could feel the holiday spirit. It is so tangible in this building and it’s an inspiring place to be.
I’m so excited for this Christmas – Liam’s first – especially now that we’ve had such good news about his health. Number one on my list of gifts is asking my family and friends to donate to RMHC Toronto.
Support families like Sylvia's. Donate now.
That’s my message to anyone who will listen: donate, donate, donate. No can truly understand how important RMHC Toronto is until you’ve had to live there, but take my word for it. Your support is the best gift you can give to families like mine.