Mom Aimee shares how important it is for her family to stay close while oldest son Aidan undergoes treatment

When I was pregnant with our son, Aidan, I had no reason to worry that anything was wrong. But when he was two and a half, he started developing seizures.

We went back and forth from the hospital in Toronto and our home in Niagara Falls, Ont., trying to figure out what was wrong.

Soon, he developed prolonged seizures that wouldn’t stop. Our little boy had to be temporarily put into a medically-induced coma to try to stop the seizures.

At the time, our second son, Ashton, was just a baby, and my husband Alex and I knew we had to stay together as a family. We rented an apartment in Toronto for the three months that Aidan was in the hospital, paying rent on top of our mortgage back home.

Finally, doctors diagnosed Aidan with an extremely rare metabolic disorder, as well as epilepsy, and we managed to get his symptoms under control with seizure medication and vitamin supplementation.

It was a scary time for our family, but as ten years passed – and we welcomed another baby, little Alister, to our family – we thought the worst was behind us.

Aidan’s condition caused issues with his kidney and his brain. Over the years, we worked closely with his neurology and nephrology teams and had to put him on the transplant list for a new kidney. But things were stable.

This past summer we were given the opportunity to travel to Disney World as a family. Alex and I drove to Florida with the boys, looking forward to the trip to Florida together. We spent our first morning sleeping in since we’d been in the car for so long.

When I went in to check on Aidan late the next morning, I discovered that he was having a seizure – and had been for some time. We had to call an ambulance and rush to the emergency room in Orlando.

Once again, Aidan had to be put into a medically-induced coma, and once again, his seizure wouldn’t stop. Aidan and I stayed in Orlando for 14 days while Alex drove back home with Ashton and Alister.

This is where I first learned about Ronald McDonald House Charities, as the hospital referred me to the local Ronald McDonald House in Orlando. I had no idea a place like this existed, and it allowed me to stay close to Aidan’s bedside through the terrifying days and nights.

Eventually, we were cleared to return to Canada and Aidan was once again admitted to the hospital in Toronto. He stayed in the ICU for 11 days before he was stable enough to move to the neurology ward.

At this point we learned that his seizure medication had damaged his kidney beyond repair, and Aidan needed to stay on dialysis. That was back in August – and our whole family has been at the Ronald McDonald House in Toronto ever since.

For us, this place has been a game changer.

One of the things that has been such a big help is that there’s a school here. RMHC Toronto School has been so great for our boys, allowing Ashton and Alister to stay on track with their education while their brother is in the hospital.

Ashton, now 12, is thriving. He’s really into dinosaurs and the school staff purposefully tailor the curriculum for him so it includes dinosaurs. He’s happy. If he was at a regular school, he’d be stressing about his brother, but here, the school staff are so good about helping him. If they see that he’s sad, they get him talking about dinosaurs. They know how to keep him learning and interested in this difficult time for him.

Alister, our four year old, is so spunky. He loves school. He is so lucky to be going to this special place for his first year of school. He loves being able to make friends.

And my husband Alex is able to use RMHC Toronto’s business centre to work remotely during the day.

I spend all day in the hospital by Aidan’s bedside. I say goodbye to Ashton and Alister when they go to school in the morning, and then I head to the hospital and stay there until Aidan falls asleep, which is sometimes as late as midnight or even four a.m. I’m so grateful to know my littlest ones are just a short walk away with their dad, and I don’t have a long drive home at night. If I really miss Ashton and Alister, I can always pop back over for twenty minutes and have a snuggle with them.

When I come back to the House late, it’s such a relief to find a homemade meal waiting for me, thanks to RMHC Toronto’s meal program. I’m always happy to know that my family is eating well, too, when I can’t be around to cook.

The cost of living right now is insane. To be able to stay somewhere in downtown Toronto with every amenity we need has been life-saving. But the most important thing is that it allows us to stay together as a family. In all of our decisions, the one thing that matters most is keeping our family together. We know that it’s thanks to the generous donors who have supported RMHC Toronto that we have been able to do that.

And we’re only one family. There are so many of us here with the same story, and there’s no way any of us could do this without the donors to Ronald McDonald House.

Nobody ever expects to be in this situation. Nobody would ever want to be. You don’t realize how much you need this until you’re here. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a city to support families with sick children! We’re so grateful to the donors who have made this place possible.