Hope and Hospitality

August 2017 View more

A family who once made good use of the Ronald McDonald House is now giving back by volunteering for the organization.

Anne Sobota was already past her first trimester when she lost her first baby, so when she became pregnant for a second time she was understandably anxious. Around fourteen weeks, she started to bleed, but doctors diagnosed a blood clot in her uterus, which thankfully reabsorbed itself.

“It was very scary,” Sobota says. “But afterward, I thought everything would be fine.”

She was horrified, therefore, when doctors then told her there was also something wrong with the baby and she only had two weeks to decide if she wanted to end the pregnancy. The baby suffered from Type 2 Truncus Arteriosus, a heart condition that affects the pulmonary artery.

“It was the opposite of blue babies, where they have too little oxygen,” Sobota explains. “The artery works the wrong way so they get too much.”

Sobota and her husband Michael O’Malley, who live in Naperville, met with a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Chicago, who told them the baby would need surgery soon after he was born. Aidan was born at Hinsdale Hospital and after a few days was airlifted to the University of Chicago. He was just ten days old when he underwent open-heart surgery.

“At that time he had to go to a regular ICU, he was in a big room with everyone else, like a dormitory,” Sobota remembers. “We couldn’t leave, and one day one of the nurses reminded us about the Ronald McDonald House, just a block away.”

The house provides a home away from home for families so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little or no cost.

“We would take turns to sit with him during the night,” Sobota says. “The house had a huge kitchen where we each had our own cabinet for food, a shared bathroom and a TV room. A lot of times [volunteer] groups would drop off food. It’s somewhere close by to stay, eat and shower.”

Aidan’s father agrees. “It was fantastic at that point in time,” says O’Malley. “Aiden spent twenty-three days in the ICU. He was our first child and we didn’t know what we were doing. The ability to stay half a block away was a great convenience, it was tremendous. It was a huge comfort to us.”

Aiden is now a fit fourteen-year-old who enjoys playing baseball. He does, however, need regular procedures to change stents in his heart as he grows up. His sister Emma is twelve.

A stay-at-home mom, Sobota is now an executive board member of the Ronald McDonald Council at Edward Hospital, where she volunteers in the Ronald McDonald Family Room.

“Here the ‘house’ is in the pediatric section [of the hospital]. There’s a big family room with kitchenette, computers, printer, TV and books,” she says. “We have two sleep rooms with their own showers. We have always financially supported the mission, but as the children got older and I had time to volunteer, I decided that I wanted to help parents the way those amazing people helped us. Just a little support for families in crisis means the world to them. I just want to be able to give back all the love and support our family received from those wonderful people at the Ronald McDonald House.”

Home Away from Home
The Ronald McDonald Family Room at Edward Hospital is one of five Chicagoland houses (in Chicago, Oak Lawn, Hines and Winfield) and three family rooms (Naperville and Chicago). Volunteers are always needed, as the Edward facility is manned from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. weekdays, with shorter hours during the weekend. Donations of food and toiletries are also welcome. For more info, visit ronaldhousechicago.org or call 630.527.3800.