Few things in life are more stressful than a family member – especially a child – experiencing a life threatening medical emergency and being away from home and the support of family and friends. Paul and Jessica Wiemerslage of Traverse City recently experienced such an ordeal with the birth and subsequent required surgeries for their daughter Harper at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, 150 miles from their Traverse City home.
Little Harper was born five weeks early with some complicated and rare medical conditions. Weighing just 4 lbs. 13 ounces, she faced surgery less than a week after her birth. A bowel complication required a second surgery shortly after her first – all requiring an extensive time away from home and the Wiemerslage’s older daughter Sophia’s school.
“The Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan was the first phone call I made shortly after delivering Harper”, Mom Jessica recalls. “Paul and I were very stressed about having a place to stay to be near Harper and her necessary care. Our close friends and family were too far from the hospital, and we really had no other affordable options to allow us to be near Harper and her medical team. When we received the call back from the Ronald McDonald House welcoming our family, we felt our prayers had been answered. “
Jessica goes on to say, “The House provided so many valuable services far beyond just a place to stay. Everything was so clean, well-organized and kid friendly, which really helped us deal with the stress our older daughter, Sophia, was experiencing through it all. We greatly benefited from all the facilities - inside and out. We couldn’t believe how gracious and friendly the staff and community group members were, preparing meals for us and others at the house.
After two months the Wiemerslages were able to take Harper home to Traverse City. However, two days later, Harper was readmitted to DeVos Children’s Hospital for further treatment. This time Mom Jessica was alone since husband Paul had returned to work, and Sophia back to school in Traverse City. “The Ronald McDonald House was my landing pad after long days of talking to doctors and nurses” explains Jessica. “The House and the amazing hospitality shown by the staff helped get me through those difficult times.”
Life continues to be full of challenges and amazing moments for Harper and the Wiemerslage family. “We feel lucky to know we have the support of the Ronald McDonald House, if needed”, comments Jessica. “I can’t imagine how we would have faced all we have without their assistance and support”.