In February 2001, Mark and I received that "parent nightmare" phone call telling us our 16 year old daughter, Kelley, was in a serious car accident and had been taken to Erlanger Hospital. After emergency surgery to stop internal bleeding, we waited out the night in a waiting room for more information. Around daybreak, an orthopedic doctor came in and gave us the tragic news that Kelley had sustained a spinal cord injury and would never walk again.
BOOM - our life changed in a moment! She would need surgery to stabilize her back but it wouldn't fix the spinal cord. We were also told that she had sustained multiple injuries to her face (almost every bone broken) and would require surgery to fix a broken jaw, and plates and screws to heal the bones in her face. We were now facing two more surgeries in the next 4 days and unknown days in Intensive Care! After another night in the waiting room, we were offered the Ronald McDonald House across the street.
What a blessing to us! There we were given our refuge! With up to 200 friends and family in the waiting room with us, we really were overwhelmed (and thankful) with all the love and support given to us. We were also worn out and found ourselves comforting everyone without time to discern the next steps we needed to provide for Kelley's recovery. That's where RMHC of Greater Chattanooga came into play.
They gave us a private room (much like a hotel room) that we could rest and visit with our other daughters, Emily and Michelle, but still be across the street from Kelley. The staff and volunteers fed, loved, and took care of us even with needs we didn't know we had. This "House that Love Built" really did become our Refuge for 2 weeks! I will never forget the small token of kindness that Anne Lunn, the Family Coordinator at the time, gave us. As we were leaving one day to visit Kelley in Intensive Care, she gave us a stuffed animal, an orange Raccoon. It gave her comfort in the ICU when we weren't there. She still has it!
RMH also was a place we could meet and call doctors and facilities that could help Kelley in her next steps to recovery. After 14 days, Kelley was transferred to the Shepherd Center specializing in Catastrophic Injuries so that she could learn to live life to the fullest. And, oh she has! Graduating from high school as President of her class each year and President of the Student Body, she went on to Birmingham Southern College, living in the dorm, driving, dating and Studying Abroad in Italy, Eastern Europe and attending a summer session at Oxford University. She met her future husband on one of these trips. After college graduation she attended and graduated from Law School at UTK. She has been married 6 years, practicing law in Atlanta for 5 years and mother to the cutest little red-headed girl, Mary Brooks!
Our family will never forget the kindness, love, and support we were given and continue to receive from our RMHC "family!" Our family tries to give back when we can for all you have given us - we can never thank you enough and will never forget! Happy 25th Birthday Ronald McDonald House of Chattanooga! How fortunate our community is to have you! May you continue to serve for many more years!