The Paynes

‘Being on the Other Side, I See So Much More’

A Nashville House Volunteer Shares Her Experience as Our Guest

“As a volunteer, I spent time in the kitchen, cooking and serving families. I had no idea until I was on the other side, being served as a guest at the Ronald McDonald House, just how much the staff and the donors provide to the families during their stay,” Alexandra Payne says. During her time in undergrad and graduate studies at Vanderbilt University, Alexandra volunteered at the Nashville Ronald McDonald House.

Alexandra, her husband, Jeremy, and 4-year-old daughter, Marnie, are from Nashville, Tennessee, and have been guests at our Ronald McDonald House near Scottish Rite for nearly a month.

Medical Journey BeginsMarnie in wheelchair

The attentive parents began noticing changes in their daughter’s speech in late November, setting off a whirlwind of doctor’s visits and procedures. “We noticed Marnie struggling with her memory and words. She was mispronouncing words she knew well, then started forgetting words entirely and finally started slurring her speech,” Alexandra says.

Marnie was diagnosed with a condition called Anti-NMDA Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis and started on a first-line treatment plan, which led to second-line treatments and traveling to Atlanta for Scottish Rite’s program.

“The way the House provides for families allows us to do nothing but focus on our child and her road to recovery. We don’t have to worry about finding a quiet place to rest and recuperate in between treatments because all we have to do is go back to our ‘home’ at the Ronald McDonald House,” Alexandra says. “We have a comfortable and warm bed, a luxurious shower, unlimited meals and snacks and space to just process and be with our thoughts and feelings.”

Ronald McDonald House Effect

Marnie in Hospital“Marnie is getting better thanks to a combination of medicine, the work of the therapeutic staff and because of how the House supports us. We can show up well-rested, well-fed and ready to support her in productive and helpful ways,” Alexandra says.

Before staying at our House, the Paynes spent 5 nights at one of our partner hotels. “The hotel was great. We could go for a quick sleep and shower before returning to the hospital to start another day,” she says.

Alexandra credits the care packages, warm meals, toys, games and gifts for Marnie as aiding in her recovery. “Thank you is not enough but will have to do,” says Alexandra. “Because of your generosity in supporting the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House, you have in many ways been a part of helping heal our daughter and the countless other children whose families have been served here.”

“We don’t have to constantly dwell on the “shoulds” – we should have been there more for Marnie, we should have rested more, we should have eaten better.  And by doing so, you have allowed us to not worry about the future or focus on the past – we can be present for our daughter.”

Marnie Payne