Ronald McDonald House

The Ronald McDonald House — It’s Not Just a House

November, 2006

By Gene Davis

The Ronald McDonald House isn’t all about statistics, although statistics relating to the number of families served, where they came from, patient’s age, etc., are kept and do give an important and interesting picture of what we do.

Nor is it about buildings, although ours are beautiful. The House is actually more like a living thing, constantly redefining itself as families arrive and others return to their homes. It is a constantly changing mosaic of children and parents, all with their own challenges, concerns and cultures.

What families do have in common here are the anxieties of having a child in jeopardy — and for a brief, intense period of their lives, they are living under the same roof at the “House That Love Built.”

Babauta boys
Jerawn Camacho (left) and Donavan Babauta
The level of activity does seem to go up whenever there are little boys staying here and right now at the Judd Hillside House is one of those times. A common sight at the moment is Jerawn Camacho and Donovan Babauta playing, hanging out, and just having fun together, as you would expect two 3-year-old buddies to be doing. They met only recently but are now best friends. Ironically, both are from the small Northern Marianas island of Saipan, which is just slightly larger that Kahoolawe, but found each other thousands of miles away in Hawaii and only because of their urgent medical needs.

The Babautas live in a village named Papago, and Donovan is the youngest of Nena and her husband David’s five children. They have made six trips to Honolulu for treatment at Kapiolani Medical Center since Donovan was diagnosed with leukemia, almost two years ago. “He has to have a spinal tap every three months and they can’t do that in Saipan,” Nena explained. Donovan also receives chemotherapy and has been both inpatient and outpatient at the hospital.

The Camacho’s Saipan home is in Navy Hill. Minna is a single mother of two, and like Nena, has had to be separated from her other child, her six year old daughter Jyawnna. Jerawn has had surgeries and multiple casts at Shriners Hospital to try to correct his club foot and the damage he had from it not having been addressed sooner. Apparently the boys needed a little time to warm up to each other. “At first it was like the cold war,” Minna says. “They would play in different rooms and just stare at each other. Now, suddenly they love each other like brothers.”

“You should see them chasing each other around, giggling, with Jerawn crawling after Donovan, cast dragging behind,” Minna laughs. “Little boys that are sick or hurt are still just little boys, and having a playmate to throw balloons at, or draw with, or watch TV with, or just chase around, means so much.”

Nena says Donovan likes it at the Ronald House. “Me, too,” she says. “We like the quiet, it’s not crowded, and it’s so good for the kids to have each other.” Even though both families are from the same small island, Nena believes that they never would have met if it weren’t for crossing paths at the Ronald McDonald House. “We probably would never have known each other. You never know why things happen.”

“We know that the Saipan families we meet here, we will be friends with for life,” Minna concludes. “But we love the other families here too and are sad that we may never see them again when they leave.”  §

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