Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Carolinas plans to double capacity with expansion
AUG 3, 2017 | EMILY PIETRAS
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Carolinas (RMHCC), which assists the families of sick or critically injured children by providing housing, meals, transportation, and other support, has been facing an unprecedented demand for its services.
“We are always full at over 80 percent capacity and have been for over five years,” says Marti Spencer, executive director and CEO of RMHCC.
RMHCC, located on Grove Road across from the Greenville Health System Children’s Hospital, is one of more than 335 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide.
“We allow families to have time together. That’s the most important thing,” Spencer says. “So when your child is critically ill or injured, you know that we are kind of going to take away all those worries about where you’re going to sleep, where you’re going to eat, how you’re going to take a shower, do laundry. … So we provide all of those for them so that their focus can be on their child. We try to be part of the whole program of family-centered care.”
She adds, “We’re able to keep families close and help them have some normalcy at a very unpredictable time in their lives and their children’s lives.”
Since RMHCC opened its doors in 1989, GHS Children’s Hospital has more than doubled its number of beds, from 64 to 166 in 2015. In that same time period, its team of pediatric specialists has increased from 14 to 206.
More than half of the families who stay at RMHCC have children being treated at GHS, but the organization has other medical affiliates in the Upstate, including the Shriners Hospital for Children and Bon Secours St. Francis Health System.
RMHCC mainly serves families from across South Carolina, as well as from six neighboring states: Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. In 2015, the counties most served were Oconee, Greenwood, Laurens, Anderson, Spartanburg, and Greenville.
Although RMHCC never wants to be in a position where they have to turn away a family, the growth of local hospital systems has left them without a choice. With just 12 guest rooms, they simply don’t have enough space to accommodate need.
“Last year, we served over 350 families, but we had to wait-list over 250 families,” Spencer says.
The Bell family recently spent 12 days at a hotel before RMHCC had an open room.
Twenty-nine-year old Abby Bell gave birth to her second child, Jensen, on May 11. Her pregnancy was full-term without any complications, but during birth, Jensen sustained a severe brain injury, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), caused by oxygen deprivation to the brain. He was treated in the neonatal intensive care unit at the GHS Children’s Hospital.