Meaningful MEALTIMES: The Stones
Dinners provided family check-in time for the Stones
Sitting down together as a family for at least one meal a day is important to Katrina Stone. For this mom of three, it’s a seemingly small act that represents so much.
“It’s just a time to see everyone and check in with them, to make sure everybody is OK before we move along,” Katrina says.
She means what every mother means here: that she just wants to see her crew in one place and plug in for a few minutes. But making sure “everybody is OK,” has another significance in the Stone family, because one member has had a tenuous relationship with OK.
By the time she was 3, Katelyn Stone, Katrina and Lyn Stone’s middle child, had undergone five open-heart surgeries. Born with a congenital heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, Katelyn was diagnosed in utero and had her first procedure at just 7 days old.
Her sixth surgery came on June 23, 2012, after an agonizing 116-day wait for a new heart. Katelyn was just 3½. Katrina and Lyn’s attention was split between their daughter in critical condition at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and their two other children back home four hours away in Adel, Georgia.
In total, the family has logged more than 200 nights at the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House near Egleston. While some of that time was just Katrina alone while Katelyn recovered in the hospital, much included the entire family.
“Knowing that the Ronald McDonald House is always there means so much,” Katrina says, who refers to the House as a home away from home.
At the time of Katelyn’s transplant, Chloe was 6, and son, Rece, hadn’t even celebrated his first birthday. Katrina thinks back on those years and says it took a toll on everyone, but the separation was especially hard on Chloe.
“To this day, Chloe loves going to the House, and I think it helped everyone having her there,” Katrina says. “It helped her bond with Katelyn, and it helped me too,” she says about having her oldest there with her.
The Stones have spent so much time at the House, it’s hard to pin down favorite memories. “There are many,” Katrina says. Katelyn spent her seventh birthday at the House, which was special. Both girls love Santa’s Workshop and the arts and crafts activities. Decorating cookies was always a highlight.
But to Katrina, of all the comforts and special moments the House afforded, sitting down for a home-cooked meal with whatever part of her family was there was the most meaningful.
“Even when we weren’t all together, it allowed those of us who were there to come together for a meal,” she says. “To sit down and continue our family’s custom. I really appreciated that.”