Spring for Families Week 6: June 17 - 23, The Finnimore Family

Since April 2015, Melanie Finnimore stayed at Ronald McDonald House to be close to her daughter, Joy, as she received essential medical treatments for her rare cystic hygroma condition. After two-and-a-half years, they transitioned back to their home in Portage la Prairie, MB.

On Week 6 of Spring for Families, The Finnimore family reveals how Ronald McDonald House became Joy and Melanie's "home-away-from-home" since Joy was born until as she grew strong enough to return home.

“Since my daughter, Joy, was born in April 2015, we lived at Ronald McDonald House (RMH) to be close to the care she needs until being able to transition home to Portage la Prairie in Fall of 2017. 

Before she was born, an ultrasound detected a large cyst in Joy’s neck. This was due to a rare condition known as cystic hygroma. As time passed, the cyst continued to grow in size and complexity. Joy’s situation was critical. She needed constant supervision to make sure her airways were clear so she could breathe. 

When I first had Joy and was staying at the House, I wasn’t able to have her away from the hospital for more than hours at a time. Because of the House, we were able to stay close and keep her overnight. Medical staff were too nervous to have her spend the night back home in Portage la Prairie. It took at least 20 months before we were even able to travel with her and go home for the first time. For the first part of Joy’s life, we’ve probably visited Portage la Prairie around 10 to 12 times in total, but not for any longer than two days in a row. 

A new treatment and airway surgery last fall helped reduce the size of her tumour allowing her to have longer breathing times without the tracheotomy. I was doing a happy dance because her breathing time extended to over five minutes after her recent surgery and treatment. She’s not critical anymore. She’s considered low-risk.

 

After her last surgery, she was able to eat on her own. Sound is the newest development. Now, she’s even able to start making sounds and a little bit of vocalization. A speech valve is another realistic goal in her future. 

After a two-and-a-half year stay at Ronald McDonald House, we transitioned home to Portage la Prairie in October, 2017. It is overwhelming in a good way. We closed a chapter and opened a new chapter in Joy’s book of life. We were able to start our own life and continue to move forward.

This is not farewell for good. We will be back as Joy comes in for surgeries, treatments and follow-ups. It’s a fact of life that she will continue to have maintenance surgeries with plenty of follow up. In the beginning, they said Joy would need 20 to 30 surgeries. She has only had five surgeries so far so there’s quite a few ahead. 

If it wasn’t for RMH, Joy would’ve never known a normal life. She would have never have been able to develop as normally, given her circumstances, as she has. She’s been able to interact with many different children who are in a similar situation as she is. We both have acquired many friends here. We refer to the RMH staff as Joy’s aunties and it’s just an amazing community. You celebrate every small victory. Starting our new life in Portage la Prairie was an adjustment for her, but it was more of an adjustment for me. I will miss the community of support RMHC Manitoba provides. It was a very special and unique gift to have RMH as part of our journey. 

Joy’s first home was RMHC Manitoba and it will always be her first home. It’s the foundation of our new life. I’m so thankful for the amazing network RMHC Manitoba provides. I’m forever grateful for having the incredible support given to us every step of the way.” 

- Melanie Finnimore