We live about a half an hour away from the hospital where my son stayed. It doesn't seem like a lot, but going home would have been a lot of work. Besides the simple lack of the need to travel, the Ronald McDonald House provided a nearby haven.
The Ronald McDonald House is a charity of the McDonald's Corporation. They provide temporary housing for the families of hospitalized children. We stayed there for a week while Daniel was in the hospital. This is what they did for us:
Meals were provided. Most nights a meal was made for everyone, but the kitchen was always open and full of left-overs. Had we come home, I would have had to do a lot of work cooking, which would have kept me away from my son.
There was an on site laundry room. I could wash and dry a load in an hour and a half, just like normal Americans. We brought four outfits per person and did laundry every few days. This simplified everything.
Late night hospital visits were a must. There were a few nights that Thomas and I stayed overnight at the hospital (while Bobby and Dan stayed at the Ronald McDonald House), but on nights that we didn't, it wasn't unusual for me to visit. Either I couldn't sleep without my son or my son couldn't sleep without me. Being right down the street from the hospital made these visits possible.
They had the internet. The hospital did too, but we couldn't access Facebook from the hospital. I was able to write a post from there, moderate comments, and send out email updates to family and friends.
There was one phone designated for long distance phone calls. I discovered this after dumping a few dollars into the hospital pay phone, but it still came in handy.
They had gifts for our sick son. There was a box full of stuffed animals and books that we could choose from. We found an excellent Thomas and Friends book that we read to Daniel several dozen times. There was also a box that must have been donated by RedBox, as it had RedBox DVDs and a sign saying we were welcome to take one home. There was a Thomas and Friends movie in there that Daniel loves.
The volunteers were amazing. Between people donating food and those coordinating our stay, they were understanding of the guests' unique position, being non intrusive but still available.
Dan and I have had a long-term hypothetical debate about which would be better to sleep on: the Sleep Number Bed, or a Tempur Pedic. After a week on a Sleep Number bed, I can't imagine a bed could be more comfortable, which means I lost the debate.
Anyway, people have asked many times if there was anything we needed. Every time, we answered that the Ronald McDonald House had taken care of all of our needs. Even after the $10 nightly donation, we technically saved money staying there, considering the cost of gas to visit the hospital and meals costs. But if anyone felt led to do something, we told them they take donations. Before this all happened, I didn't know much about the Ronald McDonald House. Now, I consider it an exemplary charity.