Vanessa Carpenter travels to the Ronald McDonald House from Salem, Virginia with her son, Charli, and their service dog, Duke. Charli is originally from Haiti and was born with amniotic band syndrome meaning he was born without arms or legs from the elbow and knee down. Vanessa took him in as her own when he was 5 months old making him her 19th child. While he may not have limbs, he is the happiest and energetic 6 year old and does not let his condition hold him back. He says hello to everyone and takes selfies with staff members.
Charli and Vanessa travel to Greenville for him to visit the Shriners Hospital to receive prosthetic legs and therapy. “It is great having a place to relax in between therapies because the therapies are very intense”, Vanessa says, “It makes everything so easy so that I have little stress and he has little stress.” Because Charli’s condition limits his walking, Vanessa has a little wagon with pillows and all of their items as she wheels Charli back and forth from the hospital.
Charli was surprised when he first stayed at the house because he thought it would be like a hotel. Soon he figured out it was a more than just a hotel but a house with great beds, “I really like the beds.” Charli said, “They’re warm and comfy and I can sleep.” When he’s not doing homework with his mom in his room, he loves to drive his electric car up and down the hallway and chat with others in the kitchen. Vanessa loves the security and freedom the house presents. Being able to visit and talk with other parents going through different situations is very comforting for both of them. She also loves the wheelchair friendliness of the house and the constant support the house provides. “Anything we need, like a table and chair for homework, they get it for us.” Being able to walk out of the hospital and go “home” to the House with a feeling of accomplishment is a wonderful thing for her and Charli.
Even though Vanessa and Charli will be coming to the Shriner’s Hospital and staying at the house on and off for the rest of Charli’s life, she is so thankful to have the comfort of a home away from home