AIDEN O’KEEFE AND HIS FAMILY SPEND 200 NIGHTS AND COUNTING TOGETHER AT RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE
It is hard to put into words how a parent feels when their child has been diagnosed with a serious illness. It has to be one of the most difficult experiences for a family. And for families who don’t live close to the care and resources they need, there is an added stress, distance. RMHC gives families with a sick child what they need most – each other.
In November 2020, 11-year-old Aiden O’Keefe experienced upper leg pain. It coincidentally happened in the early hours after a regular hockey practice so at first it was thought to be an injury from the game. As time went on the pain got worse and Aiden had to use crutches. Aiden had several medical tests over the coming weeks, but it wasn’t until December, at the hospital emergency in Goose Bay, that they discovered irregularities in his blood that was considered suspicious for leukemia.
“It was extremely hard finding out Aiden had leukemia. No parent wants to hear their child has cancer. Cancer is scary. My mind was racing, I could barely speak, I was shaking. Then, seeing Aiden, and how well he was coping, I honestly told myself to smarten up and toughen up. I couldn’t show weakness around my 11 year old son. He sees me as his strength. Little did he know, his strength is what gave me strength. Finding out we would have to be away from home for so long was really hard as well, because we also have two small girls, seven year old Ellie and Kacie who is just 18 months old.” said Donalda, Aiden’s mom.
Aiden was listed as critical and transferred immediately to the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s, NL, more than 1600km from his home, school, friends and family. It was then that they were introduced to the programs and services at Ronald McDonald House. Donalda and her husband Gary said that Ronald McDonald House didn’t even cross their minds until the social worker at the hospital mentioned it to them. They always knew, however, that Ronald McDonald House was a special house for families who have a sick child at the hospital, but didn’t understand the its extreme importance until they too became one of those families on December 17, 2020.
Donalda continued, “Staying here at the RMHC is absolutely and positively making supporting Aiden easier. Not only a little bit either. It’s making it so much easier. RMHC is super close to the hospital. When Aiden is admitted, we are only across the parking lot and can be there in a flash if something were to happen. Likewise, when Aiden is with us at Ronald McDonald House if there is an emergency the hospital isn’t far. I also don’t have worry about cooking and cleaning (for the most part). All our attention and time is spent focusing and taking care of Aiden. Like I said this organization is by far the best there is.”
Aiden’s treatment plan will extend over the course of the next two years with the first 6-9 months in St. John’s and the remaining treatments in Goose Bay. For the family, travelling back and forth to Goose Bay is simply not an option. The O’Keefe Family are very grateful to everyone that supports Ronald McDonald House.
“Thank you RMHC, for keeping our family together during a very difficult and stressful time.” The O’Keefe Family.