Having a very sick child takes a tremendous toll on a family. They face endless hospital visits, distressing tests, expensive treatments and constant exhaustion and anxiety about what the next day may bring.
Families of critically or chronically ill children often feel isolated and alone. Frequently, other children in the family also need their parents' care and attention and may feel neglected due to the necessary attention placed on their sick sibling.
Ronald McDonald House supports families around Australia during these stressful times. In Canberra, they provided a dedicated family room at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.
The room is located close to where children undergo treatment. It is a respite, a chance for a quiet cup of tea, a play area for energetic siblings, or a space for a much-needed nap.
In 2017, Beyond Bank staff at Mawson discovered that volunteers were needed in the family room. We created a roster that ensured that the family room could remain open on a Wednesday evening for the families who needed it.
Our staff often talk about the wonderful experiences of interacting with the parents and siblings of unwell children in the family room.
One of our team, Rachel, recalls spending time with a toddler and his dad, who had come in for a play.
The mother had a two-week-old baby who needed assistance breathing due to a virus she had contracted at birth.
Their toddler had been cooped up in a hospital room and really enjoyed the toys and snacks in the family room. Bringing him in for some play gave Dad a chance for a cup of tea and a rest on the couch.
"It was great fun talking to this hilarious little man about his new sister. He was very unsure about the idea of the new bundle going back to his house with him!" Rachel said.
"Some parents who come in are struggling with far more serious issues. They may want to talk about it, or they may not. A cup of tea and a warm smile may be all you can do for them – but having someone show care makes the tough times just a little bit easier," she said.