For this Georgetown family, RMHC Toronto was there when they needed it—twice

“There were times where we did not know if Theo would make it through the night and we had to literally run over to the hospital.”

Life took an unexpected turn for the Mitropoulos family, twice. Both of their sons, first Theo and then Christian, were born with gastroschisis—a rare birth defect where the baby’s intestines are outside of the body,

“I was in shock when we learned Theo had gastroschisis,” says mom Jessica. “I didn’t really understand how my baby would survive being born this way, and I was terrified to be living so far away from the hospital. I didn’t know how we would afford a hotel for so many days.”

The family lives an hour and a half away from Toronto, in Georgetown, Ont. Since Theo required extensive medical care, the High-Risk Clinic at their hospital referred them to RMHC Toronto. Initially Jessica didn’t understand why they would need Ronald McDonald House Charities. But they quickly realized how much they needed this support.

“It made a huge difference,” says Jessica. “I could not imagine driving in a car for over three hours a day after birthing a high-risk child.”

They went on to spend four months living at RMHC Toronto while Theo underwent surgery. When they finally brought baby Theo home, they were relieved to put the difficulties of having a seriously ill child behind them. And a year later, the couple were happy to find out they were pregnant again.

Since gastroschisis is a rare birth defect, and not genetic, Jessica and George had no concerns that they would go through the same experience again. Yet during their pregnancy, they learned that baby Christian, too, had gastroschisis.

“To find out we would go through this a second time was unimaginable. We didn’t know how we were going to spend time with our new baby in the hospital plus take care of a toddler with high medical needs,” says Jessica.

They knew firsthand how difficult it was to be away from home after having a baby. Fortunately, they found a home once again at RMHC Toronto. They stayed for three months this time, as Christian underwent the same surgery and recovery as his brother.

For the Mitropoulos family, the generosity of RMHC Toronto donors is something they’ll always be grateful for. Amenities like home-cooked meals, a fully-stocked pantry, and a clean place to do laundry made the journey of supporting their sick children more manageable. Playing outside, taking classes in woodworking and baking, and participating in dance parties are some of the cherished memories that brought a sense of normalcy in a difficult time.

“I can’t imagine getting through our experience without the help and support of RMHC Toronto,” says mom Jessica.

This year, the Mitropoulos family were pleased to show their support of RMHC Toronto as our ambassador family for McHappy Day on May 10. They shared their story with media and visited McDonald’s restaurants to say thanks to McDonald’s crew members and their community supporters. They even met a special visitor at one location – Ontario premier, Doug Ford!

For the Mitropoulos family, RMHC Toronto will always be a special place that allowed them to stay close together when they needed each other the most.

“From the bottom of our hearts, we’d like to say thank you to everyone who helped ensure that RMHC Toronto was there when we needed it,” says Jessica.

The Mitropoulos family with Doug Ford on McHappy Day