“The Ronald McDonald House will always mean strength.” Read the Hubbards’ story

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The Ronald McDonald House is helping make life a little easier for families with sick children. Photo via Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama

What does the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama (RMHCA) mean to you? For the Hubbard family, RMHCA means support and a safe place to stay after a heart transplant surgery. Hear how the Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham became a big blessing and the ways it’s impacting community members, including a local doctor.

A safe place to stay during a major crisis

RMHCA means support for Za'Kleby and his family
Za’Kelby’s heart had become so weak from dilated cardiomyopathy it could no longer work on its own. Photo via Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama

At 17 you worry about a lot of things. The list includes homework and whether your soccer team will win the big game. But, a heart attack is rarely ever one of those concerns. When it became a reality for 17-year-old Za’Kelby Hubbard, his life turned upside down.

Since the Hubbards are residents of Lawrence County, Birmingham is the nearest hospital equipped to deal with the severity of the situation. So far from their house, what did the Hubbard family call home while Za’Kelby recovered from heart transplant surgery?

Thankfully, amidst the chaos, one place became a temporary sanctuary—RMHCA.

“This sudden and serious diagnosis took his normal teenage life away, but Za’Kelby was strong and resilient.

Part of that strength came from you (RMHCA). While we were waiting on Za’Kelby’s new heart, I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House across the street. I was able to have my ‘moments’ to myself, rest up for the next day, and I received the compassion and encouragement I needed from the staff and other families. Sometimes I think it meant more to Za’Kelby than it even did to me.”

Lillie Hubbard, Za’Kelby’s mother

The Hubbards are not alone

Lillie ended up spending 199 days at RMHCA and Za’Kelby spent 42 days. She describes her time there as a “wonderful gift.”

RMHCA means support for many families facing similar situations. One of the biggest themes of their experience is the notion that you’re not going through this alone.

“I feel that is God showing us, ‘Hey, you’re going through this but you’re not going through it alone. If you love me, help my people!’ And y’all (the Ronald McDonald House staff) help us a lot but you don’t have to do it. The Ronald McDonald House is a blessing.”

Lillie Hubbard

Your support makes a real difference for the Hubbards and 72 other families who need the care RMCHA provides. Make a gift today or volunteer to help these families continue to receive help.

For Dr. Carlo, RMHCA means support for his patients

RMCHA means support for all children
Dr. Carlo is the Director of Neonatology at UAB. Photo via Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama

As the Director of Neonatology at UAB, Dr. Carlo sees a lot of families with sick children come through the doors. While he’s an expert in caring for them from a medical standpoint, he also contributes aid on the emotional side of things as well.

Dr. Carlo serves on RMHCA’s Advisory Council and has been involved with the organization for over 30 years. His role helps families with sick children gain access to warm meals, a safe room to sleep and other basic comforts while their child stays in the hospital.

“From a technical point of view, I’m taking care of babies. But, their mothers need the home away from home that RMHCA provides. It’s a place where families can get safe lodging, but also a nurturing environment.”

Dr. Carlo, Director of Neonatology, UAB

RMCHA means support from other families

RMHCA means support for mothers and their babies
Staying at RMHCA means families are able to rely on each other for support. Photo via Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama

RMHCA offers a lot more than basic comforts. Dr. Carlo sees the way families at the nonprofit receive vital support from each other, too. An important part of staying here means being in an environment where you’re surrounded by those who actively understand what you’re going through.

“At RMHCA, they have other families who may be at a different stage that can help and support them. For example, we will have mothers with premature babies that are doing well and preparing to go home. Then, they meet other families whose babies just came into the hospital.

So, these families can help each other and have a support system and a home where they have a safe place they can be close to the babies.”

Dr. Carlo, Director of Neonatology, UAB
The Eusty family is one of the many who’ve benefited from RMCHA’s services. Photo via Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama

After working in Birmingham for three decades, a lot has changed for Dr. Carlo and RMHCA. He’s even seen the House go through a transformation when they added more space for families. But, one thing remains consistent and it’s this response he gets from patients: “Thank God for Ronald McDonald House.”

Want to give back to families like the Hubbards? For ways to help, visit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama’s websiteInstagram and Facebook.

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