Our family lives in Brimley, Michigan which is 16 miles from the Canadian border. The Upper Peninsula is a wonderful place to live and raise a family, but due to the isolated nature of the area, we lack many medical and psychological services.
We have four children and two of them have needed to be hospitalized for mental illness when they have been suicidal. They both suffer from severe depression with suicidal ideations and are medication resistant. Heather, our youngest, also has severe anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Therefore, when she is severely depressed, she obsesses about killing herself which is very dangerous and required immediate treatment/intervention.
The nearest psychiatric facility for adolescents is in Grand Rapids which is 300 miles from our home. It is a five-and-a-half-hour drive to Forest View Hospital from our home when the weather is good.
Heather has been hospitalized twice at Forest View and is now in a partial program where she is in treatment during the day and stays with me at the Ronald McDonald House on weekends and nights. The first time we came to Grand Rapids, I did not know we could stay at the house. We stayed in a local hotel and went back and forth to home 2-3 times a week. It was very stressful and also very expensive.
On Heather’s second hospitalization, the nurse recommended contacting the Ronald McDonald House. That suggestion was a life saver for our family. I moved into the house and was able to stay in Grand Rapids. The staff at the hospital allowed me to visit Heather every day and sometimes would call me in more often to help when Heather was really struggling. This was such a comfort for Heather and us to be able to provide the support she needed. This stay was for two weeks and having a safe and comforting home was a blessing. We did not have to worry about accommodations, meals or having a place to rest. The House is a wonderful facility and the staff was always available to provide support or answer questions.
Heather was home for 6 weeks and started to suffer again from severe depression. Her psychiatrist and counselor up north determined that she could not get enough treatment at home and needed a more intensive program. We have now returned to Forest View where Heather is in the partial program. I was able to have a room at the Ronald McDonald House for this stay and am so grateful. When I received the call letting us know we had a room, I actually cried due to relief. We were driving at that time and a few hours away from Grand Rapids. Knowing that we had a home for the time Heather will be in treatment, was such a relief. There would be no financial burden on my family and I could stay as long as she needed. This program may last 2-3 weeks or longer. At this time, we really do not know. Having a place to stay, reduces the stress of being away from home and worrying about taking care of Heather.
As Heather’s condition will be a life long struggle, she will continue to need treatment. She will be eligible to return to Forest View until she graduates from high school when she turns 18. This is over a year away, so we may need to return in the future depending upon her condition.
Staying at the house has been an amazing experience. The meals provided are definitely a highlight. We greatly appreciate the work of the volunteers and all the groups which come in to help. Several of the meal providers have had connections to the house and are giving back. Heather and I spend time in the recreation room watching television or playing games. The sun room is a great location for cards, dominoes or crafts. The feeling of home is wonderful and gives us the freedom to keep our routines as close to normal as possible. For those people with mental illness, routine is very important and living in a hotel could not provide that.
Heather and I have also taken advantage of the free passes to Meijer Garden and the Art Museum. Those diversions have also helped with stress reduction and positive experiences for when Heather is not in the hospital.
The Ronald McDonald House is a comfortable home which allows children and family a less stressful environment where the focus can be on the child in need.