Having a sick child can be a lengthy and taxing process—mentally, physically and financially. For those families who have to travel long distances for their child’s medical care, it can be even more gruelling taking them away from the comfort and security of their homes, families, jobs and support networks when they need them most.
Ronald McDonald House Charities helps to ease the burden by offering a safe and compassionate space for families to stay together while their sick child is in hospital and receiving medical treatment. And in an average year, Ronald McDonald House Charities supports more than 26,000 families across Canada through their toughest times.
Keith Klein’s family is one of those families. Last year, Klein’s 13-year-old son, Jax, suffered an injury while sledding. When doctors in their hometown of Tisdale, Saskatchewan, couldn’t resolve the issue, they went to Prince Albert, over an hour away from their hometown, to see an orthopedic specialist who found an irregularity in Jax’s hip. “From there, things moved quickly,” recalls Klein. Within a week, Jax had a CT and MRI and shortly afterwards, a bone scan. A couple of weeks later following a biopsy, they received the diagnosis no parent wants to hear: Jax has cancer.
Klein and Jax headed to Saskatoon, two and a half hours away from Tisdale, for Jax to begin treatment and undergo surgery at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital. Klein’s ex-wife joined them at the Ronald McDonald House in Saskatoon to support Jax. As a blended family, Klein notes that Ronald McDonald House Saskatchewan was sensitive to their needs to ensure both mom and dad could stay close to Jax. “I was planning to stay with friends,” says Klein. “I had no idea about Ronald McDonald House until my ex-wife told me. The House was so amazing. Whatever your family looks like, they try to accommodate as best they can.”
Klein and Jax wound up staying for three months from December 2021 to February 2022. “Just being able to be here helped so much,” Klein says. “Not having to worry about breakfast every morning. And the staff and volunteers are so helpful and supportive. They do baking, cooking—so much hard work. And it’s just nice to be able to have a moment with someone and some adult interaction when you’re with your kid all the time.”
Having the camaraderie of other parents at Ronald McDonald House and being able to share the experience also makes things easier. “We’ve made friends with a couple of other families,” says Klein. “I love hearing success stories and talking with other parents going through something medical like this.”
Jax’s current treatment entails a daily radiation session. While they could make the drive, Klein and Jax have opted to go back to Ronald McDonald House in Saskatchewan as the Ronald McDonald House is also available for outpatient care. “It’s a long drive for a 30-minute treatment,” Klein says. Not having to travel back and forth every day makes a huge difference for them. “When we have a break between hospital stays, we go home, but we give Ronald McDonald House an expected date of return and they have a room ready. It’s so nice to have friendly happy faces to greet us.”
And while they did have other accommodation options, none were conducive to what Jax needs during their treatment or what Klein needed to be the best support he could be to Jax. “This place has been a lifesaver for us,” affirms Klein. “I don’t think I could have been at ease otherwise. I do have friends and family I could have stayed with here, but they have their own families, and their homes just wouldn’t have been the right place for Jax to be in right now. Ronald McDonald House is a nice home away from home. It’s very hard to put into words what this place means to us. I don’t think I could have done all of this otherwise.”
Like many dads, Klein’s wish is “just being able to spend time with my kids. My kids are awesome.” Ronald McDonald House has been instrumental in helping him be with Jax during this critical time. “It’s brought us closer together. We see each other’s smiling faces, angry moments every day, says Klein. “Ronald McDonald House gives you the ability to stay close with your child when they’re sick. It gives dads the chance to be there as much as moms.”
Consider helping dads with sick children stay close together by donating to Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada.