26 Oct ONE DAY at a Time for the Dam Family
Peter Dam returned home after work and, seeing his daughter crying in her bed, asked the obvious, “What’s going on?”
His wife Pam replied that Paige, 8, was complaining about back pain. So the parents gave her a warm bath and pain medication before putting her to bed.
Peter awoke at about 4 a.m. to prepare for work as an E7/Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army, at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. But, first, he checked on Paige.
She said she couldn’t feel her legs and her left leg was “dangling like a noodle.”
Frightened parents rushed her to the Fort Benning hospital, where the staff ran the gamut of tests. “They could see her right leg was severely degraded in physical function and strength, but tests revealed nothing.”
The medical staff ordered a urine sample, but Paige insisted she did not need to go to the bathroom. “Although a CAT/CT scan revealed her bladder was full, Paige had no feeling or control of her bladder function.”
Immediately, they were in an ambulance rushing to Atlanta, where a care team at Scottish Rite jumped into action.
Paige was diagnosed with transverse myelitis. “They told us to expect a full recovery. We just don’t know how long it will take.” She spent two months at Scottish Rite in robotics and aquatics therapy.
Not wanting to leave Paige’s side, Peter slept on furniture in her hospital room for two months. The confinement weighed on Paige and she missed her 6-year-old brother Phillip.
Prospects of yet another month of therapy following her hospital release increased the burden on her already stressed parents.
“But thankfully Scottish Rite contacted the Ronald McDonald House. Immediately the night manager called with a few questions and said they would love to have our family. It was a seamless process, and from day one it’s been a great experience.”
At the House, Paige loved her newfound freedom, walking inside and out with her walker and wheelchair, eating in the dining room, and she especially enjoyed the treehouse.
A recent activity encouraged children to draw their favorite superhero, with a trip to Zoo Atlanta as the reward. Father and daughter enjoyed the zoo. But, best of all, the lift in COVID restrictions allowed her brother to visit, and Paige got to hang out with Phillip for the first time in two months.
Peter and Paige return for therapy at regular monthly intervals. And they are assured volunteers and staff will make their family feel welcome.
Peter says Ronald McDonald House volunteers and staff make it a place to call home. “Everyone cares. They get to know you. They understand why parents are upset. They take all the burden and stress off you and let you focus on your child’s well-being and happiness.”