Photo: Alex Nisiriou @ Jared Vethaak Photography.

Now living in Brisbane, the Lang family – parents Annette and Ben with their children Chelsea, Declan and Emmy (front) – are forever grateful for the support and accommodation provided by Ronald McDonald House Canberra over several months while Emmy remained under observation in the NICU at Canberra’s Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. At the time, October 2014, the family were living in Griffith, NSW, 360km north-west of Canberra.

Ronald McDonald House Canberra Turns 10

Sunday 16 October 2022 marks ten years since the opening of Ronald McDonald House Canberra, supporting seriously ill children and premature infants and their families. The House has been providing a home away from home for over 3600 families with children in hospital in the last 10 years – including Emmy’s mum, Annette.

Baby Emmy’s eleven-week premature birth in October 2014 meant that she had to be in the NICU under observation 360 kms away from home for over three months.

“Emmy was immediately helicoptered after birth from Griffith (NSW) to Canberra’s Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. My husband and I were not allowed on the helicopter and had to make the 4.5-hour trip by car. We had no idea where we’d stay when we got there and were very overwhelmed by what lay ahead of us,” recalls Annette.

“I was very upset about leaving my two children at home and I knew my husband Ben, had to return to work. So, when I found out that I could stay at Ronald McDonald House Canberra, and when they told me that I could bring my family with me to visit or even stay, it was such a relief.

“The House became a safe haven during the three months I stayed there. I knew I could visit Emmy in the middle of the night if I wanted to and not worry because I was just on another floor,” says Annette.

While Ben had family support back home, Annette found comfort in the people at the House during that time. She developed ‘lifelong friendships’ with other families in the House that, although were going through their own difficulties, would keep a lookout for her wellbeing as she would for them.

“Emmy had very serious complications and for weeks it felt like we were constantly getting bad news.  I was emotionally exhausted and missing my other two children. Having the comfort of other families and volunteers around me was immeasurable during this time. I don’t know how I would have coped otherwise,” explains Annette.

Eventually, the family decided that Emmy’s then-three-year-old brother Declan would stay at the House with Annette to relieve her emotional stress.

“Ben would not have been able to visit as often as he did, and I would not have been able to see my other two kids as often as I did if it were not for RMHC. Declan being able to stay with me was so amazing.”

A night ingrained in her memory is when she had to rush to Emmy in the middle of the night, leaving a sleeping Declan behind.

Mum Annette Lang with Baby Emmy October 2014 - Ronald McDonald House Canberra Family Story

“The NICU called me and told me that Emmy was unsettled and was out of milk and I needed to bring some to her,” Annette says.

“A volunteer promised me he would sit in the hallway outside my door so that if Declan woke, he would hear him and bring him to me.”

“When I came back, this wonderful volunteer was exactly where he said he’d be – sitting in the hallway outside of my door reading a book, Declan was still sound asleep in his little bed.  This memory will stay with me forever.”

Today, Emmy is seven years old, loves playing with their dog Lucy, and enjoys spending time with friends. Annette says she would love to take Emmy back to the House some day to show her where her journey began.

“We still think about the House and the wonderful friendships we made.  Even the kids hear us talk so much about the place and even encourage friends and family to support the charity.

“At a time when you’re completely swallowed up in the wellness of your child, just having people take care of some of the basic things can go a long way,” says Annette.

The family's experience at RMHC has left an invaluable impact on their lives.

“To the community who support this charity with donations or volunteering please don’t ever think your efforts go unnoticed. RMHC was not just a roof over our heads, it was an emotional support system, it was the feeling of being home when we weren’t able to be at home.  It was a huge part of our lives back then and will always be cemented in our hearts and minds.”

As Ronald McDonald House Canberra celebrates its 10th Birthday, a family currently in the House is completing close to a year-long stay. Whether it’s 3 nights, 3 months or 300 days, the charity makes a big difference by giving children in hospital the best gift of all – their families.

This story was originally published in Canberra Weekly 13th October 2022 Issue: 

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All funds will be go towards our Chapter's Programs that support families with children that are seriously ill, injured, need ongoing treatments/medical care, or are born prematurely with complications.

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Ronald McDonald House Charities Australian Capital Territory & South East NSW is a Registered Charity (Canberra and South East NSW House Incorporated ABN 28 589 286 011) and a Public Benevolent Institution endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Taxation Office. Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible in Australia.

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