DJ Block, 7, would be living in the hospital full time if it weren’t for the Ronald McDonald House.
Now each day when he finishes treatments for his brain tumor, “he has a place to go home to,” said his father, Donald. The Ronald McDonald House “is like a second home for him.”
DJ will spend about a week every month undergoing those treatments. They’ll continue for the rest of his life.
DJ’s parents, Donald and Rosemarie, were shocked when they were told over Memorial Day weekend that their son had a brain tumor. He had brain surgery, which couldn’t remove the tumor. Next DJ faced a month of radiation treatment.
Donald and Rosemarie had been staying with DJ at the hospital or driving back to their home in rural East Otto, about an hour drive from Buffalo, until a social worker told them about the Ronald McDonald House.
“We showed up at 10 at night with five bags of laundry,” Donald said, and the Ronald McDonald House made them feel welcome. “The place has just been an absolute blessing.”
Everyday problems don’t stop when your family is in crisis. Donald recently had to spend some time at home repairing a leaking basement. Rosemarie was in Buffalo with DJ for his treatments, but she doesn’t drive. That didn’t matter— the House van took her and DJ back and forth from the hospital.
“You just sign up on the board and they take you,” Donald said. “There’s no waiting for a bus.
“I don’t have to worry about anything but DJ. They take everything else off the plate for me.”
Being able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House means less driving for Donald, so he can keep working as a machinist in a suburb of Buffalo and still be with DJ. Without the House, Rosemarie would probably have to live with DJ in the hospital while he received treatments, and Donald would have to play catch-up with the doctors when he could get to Buffalo.
A tutor comes right to the Ronald McDonald House to help DJ with his lessons.
Sometimes the chemotherapy makes him sick, so the staff makes sure he gets a bedroom with a sink. When he needs prescriptions filled, the hospital can send them right to the House. And DJ loves the playroom.
The family has felt an amazing outpouring of kindness from the staff and volunteers.
“They come and talk to you,” Donald said. “They treat you like you’re family.”
“The House has just been fantastic for us. We can’t say enough good things about it.”
Donald says he feels lucky that he is relatively close to home; many of the families at the Ronald McDonald House come from other parts of the world. In the last year the Ronald McDonald House has helped many other families, all of whom have their own story of anguish and gratitude.
DJ is responding well to treatment. He had been using a wheelchair and walker, but after the radiation treatment, he is running around like a kid again.
Unfortunately, the tumor will probably come back. DJ will have to return to Buffalo for chemotherapy for the rest of his life.