03 Jun Meet the Terrell Family
Six years ago, the Terrell family never imagined they would need a place like the Ronald McDonald House. But when five-year-old Marti became violently ill after her first day of kindergarten, the Terrells had no idea what the future would hold. Marti’s parents believed she caught a stomach bug at school, but began to worry when Marti did not feel better. After months of pain and countless doctor visits, a MRI would show the cause of Marti’s illness – a brain tumor. Marti was diagnosed with Craniopharyngiomas, a benign brain tumor weighing on her pituitary gland and optic nerve. “It’s been a long journey ever since,” describes Marti’s mother Anna.
Since 2009, Marti has been in and out of hospitals away from her home in Elberton, Georgia. After enduring several invasive brain surgeries, she lost her short-term memory. But recently, Anna noticed Marti changing in a different way. “She was sleeping all the time, and it was hard to wake her up,” describes Anna. “This was very alarming to us.” When she was awake, Marti had no emotion and could not talk or walk. Doctors found the tumor was growing, not only causing Marti to slip into comas for extended periods of time but also affecting her brain’s ability to communicate with her body. Once again, Marti and Anna had to leave home for the hospital. They traveled to Atlanta where Marti underwent three additional surgeries. Consequently, Marti lost partial mobility and eyesight. She needed rehabilitation, which meant even more time away from home.
Anna was unsure where she and Marti would stay during Marti’s treatment, but then a room became available at the Peachtree Dunwoody Atlanta Ronald McDonald House. “This has been a gift, beyond belief,” says Anna. “It allowed me to be hands on with Marti’s recovery.” The Terrell family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for 37 nights. During this time, Anna and Marti were able to be together near the hospital while Marti received care. “To know the House is here and to be across the street from the hospital…,” says Anna, “It was incredible.”
The Ronald McDonald House offered the Terrells more than a place to stay. The House offered emotional support and peace of mind during their darkest days. While staying at the House, Anna and Marti developed friendships with other guests. “I’ve met some wonderful families that are on a similar journey,” Anna explains. “It’s a therapeutic gift.” In the evenings, Marti participated in fun games and activities with other children and volunteers. “It takes my mind away from thinking about all the other stuff going on,” says Marti.
Marti completed her rehabilitation program in May. She has since regained physical mobility and is speaking clearly. Anna believes having the ability to stay together at the House during Marti’s medical treatment helped her recover faster. Marti’s medical journey is not over, but her family takes comfort in knowing they have a “home-away-from-home” at the Ronald McDonald House.