When Jael Kennedy was diagnosed with a brain tumor, Medulloblastoma, at age 3 in August of 2009 her parents, Erik and Barb, were in total shock and disbelief. After her tumor was completely removed at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, Jael needed chemotherapy to eliminate any possible remaining cancer which would give her the greatest chance at survival. She and her family, including younger sister Heidi, traveled from Daytona Beach to Shands Children’s Hospital to continue her treatment with Pediatric Neuro-Oncologist Dr. Amy Smith. They stayed at the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville during the three months Jael was receiving treatment and had a place to call home that was close to the hospital.
“Jael’s cancer is very malignant, and so she underwent six cycles of chemo, 3 of which were high-dose chemo, with stem cell transplant,” Jael’s mother, Barb, said. “We were relieved to have a place to stay that would keep our family together.”
When Erik and Barb were not at the hospital with Jael they spent their time at the Ronald McDonald House playing with their daughters and keeping in touch with people at home in Daytona Beach. The computer room and other services at the House, such as the Visiting Chefs program, at the House were greatly appreciated.
“My girls loved the playground and playroom and my husband and I used the internet to keep our friends and family updated,” Barb said. “Having the kitchen and access to community food took a great deal of stress off of our family.”
Erik and Barb’s interactions with the families and staff at the Ronald McDonald House gave them hope during Jael’s treatment. It was nice for them to be surrounded by people who understood what their family was going through and could comfort them in their time of need. They still remain in contact with the families they met at the House.
Jael has been cancer free since February 2010 and the family is grateful they had the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville to go to in their time of need.
“Jael continues to have clear MRI scans and we are beginning to return to some sort of ‘normal,’” Bard said. “The Ronald McDonald House is a great resource for any family who has a child in the hospital or treatment. It is a place to decompress, sleep and be a family.”