"Just wait until they get to Ronald McDonald House"

August 16, 2017
Nikki can't believe the difference in her son since he arrived at the House
Saenz family

No parent ever expects to have a sick child or to wind up living at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto. But sometimes life takes a turn.

That is what happened to Ottawa’s Juan and Nikki Saenz. In January 2017, the couple was excitedly preparing to leave for a two-month trip to Asia with their boys Gabriel, 8, and Kevin, 6, when they were road-blocked by some traumatic news.

“We had been planning this trip for a year,” says Nikki. “We had withdrawn the kids from school, we had all of our vaccines and visas and currencies and snacks for the plane. Then just one week before we flew to China, Kevin was admitted to the hospital and didn’t leave for six months.”

In the weeks leading up to their trip, Kevin had developed some mysterious bruising. A blood test confirmed that he had acute myeloid leukemia and he required blood transfusions right away. Kevin was admitted to the children’s hospital in Ottawa until June, while he underwent three rounds of chemotherapy. On June 16, Kevin and his parents came to Toronto so he could receive a bone marrow transplant. They checked into RMHC Toronto, where they’ve been staying ever since.

Kevin on a scooter in front of RMHC Toronto

Kevin’s older brother Gabriel stayed in Ottawa with his grandmother so he could finish the school year at home. With both of his parents needing to be at the hospital with his brother, Gabriel had spent months apart from his family.

“It’s been challenging to support both of our boys,” says Juan. “We have to be with Kevin, but we also want to help Gabriel with his day-to-day needs at school. We couldn’t share much of that with him this year, and that’s very difficult.”

July brought some much-needed good news for the family when Kevin was discharged from the hospital to recover from his transplant at RMHC Toronto.

“Kevin was really unhappy in the hospital,” says Nikki. “He wasn’t eating, he didn’t smile and his legs were wobbly from being in bed. Then as soon as he arrived at the House, everything changed. He started going up and down the stairs, and we brought him a plate from Home for Dinner and he ate and ate and ate.

“Now I’m telling other transplant families, ‘Just wait until they get to Ronald McDonald House.’”

Just as important for Kevin’s recovery is that his family is finally back together. Gabriel is living at the House now, reuniting the foursome for the first time since January. The brothers and best friends are loving the facilities at RMHC Toronto.

Gabriel and Kevin playfully wrestling

“The video games here are A-mazing!” says Gabriel. “They have really new games and a trillion PS4s.”

And since Kevin has a compromised immune system, his family is making use of the safe spaces at our House.

“The gym in the basement is so great for the boys, and now we’re able to use the outdoor playground a bit as well,” says Nikki. “Kevin can take off his mask and finally run around and play hockey, baseball, soccer and Frisbee with his brother. Being together makes them so happy, and I believe if the mind is healthy, the body gets healthy.”

Gabriel, Kevin and Juan posing with Santa
The boys at the House's Christmas in July celebration.

Getting Kevin healthy is his family’s top priority, so they’re grateful to recover together at RMHC Toronto. Their plans may have been interrupted for now, but someday they will finally take that family trip to Asia.

“When we can, we will.”

Leave a Comment

Mrs. Claus
Hi Kevin!
I am so very happy to hear that you are getting better and that you and your brother are finally able to spend time together. This is such great news!!
I wish you all the best and big hugs to all of you. Thank you RDHC for such a great place!!
28/08/2017 2:00:43 PM

Hello Nikki and Kevin and everyone! Stay strong Kevin, you will get out of there soon. I really want to thank Ronald McDonald House Charities for their awesome treatment of our friends. GO SAENZ family! :)
22/08/2017 8:03:15 AM

You are a super great family. I hope to see you soon back in Ottawa. To Kevin, the unstoppable child!
21/08/2017 11:30:12 AM

Marcela cuellar
Queridos Nikki y Juan, sigo atenta sus avances. Su amor es un arco iris! Ustedes están haciendo una labor maravillosa, Dios multiplique sus fuerzas cada mañana, les de descanso en las noches y les bendiga abundantemente! Seguimos orando x ustedes 4 atravesando este proceso!!!!
19/08/2017 6:47:35 AM

Laurie Wells
Ronald McDonald House truly has brought this family together again. These places need everyone's support. A true home home away from home when you need it most. Thank you fo being there for my cousin and her amazing family xoxo
18/08/2017 10:36:14 PM

So heart warming to read this story. RMHC is a wonderful place doing a great job for families such as yours. You are all doing a wonderful job under very difficult times. Hoping to see Kevin home again in Ottawa to stay. Stay strong.
18/08/2017 12:01:55 PM

RMHC is a blessing for so many families. Wonderful to hear that you guys are all together able to support each other. Always sending your family good vibes and prayers your way.
18/08/2017 11:46:28 AM

Soli Diano

I am so happy to hear the good news! Bon courage!
We will continue to hold you in our prayers!

18/08/2017 10:49:21 AM

Pao Cardenas
Very proud of you!!! my best energies for the family and my best wishes for kevin #gokevin!!
18/08/2017 10:35:24 AM

Sue Merrick
Thank heaven for RMHC.! Thrilled to hear Kevin and Gabriel can be together once again. Kick butt, Kevin!
18/08/2017 6:54:30 AM

Brad Garner
Way to go Kevin! Keep up the good work! Hope to see you soon back in Ottawa. And thank you to Ronald McDonald House for everything you do to help families through tough times.
17/08/2017 11:47:36 PM

Majo Dsilva
So proud of you guys! The best loving couple, kids and family ever! We love you so much and thank God you can have this great support! What a great place... Congratulations #gokevin
17/08/2017 11:34:05 PM

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