A Home Away From Home

Betts Murdison, President & CEO, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta

A diagnosis of congenital heart disease can be a scary thing for any parent to hear

If that family lives far away from the critical medical care their child needs, it is exponentially scarier. That’s where Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta steps in.

We are a “home away from home” for families of all pediatric patients who come to Augusta for medical treatment. In 2014, nearly 10 percent of our families were identified as pediatric heart program patients. This does not include the newborn babies in the NICU who are often seen by a pediatric cardiologist during their stay.

We enable the physicians to complete their mission of caring for the children of Georgia in their outreach clinics in other parts of our state. When a child is seen in Albany, Valdosta or Thomasville and needs further treatment, the family can come to Augusta knowing that they have a safe, caring and fun home to stay in that is steps away from the hospital. If a mom has a prenatal cardiology diagnosis, she, too, can come and stay at the house prior to her expected delivery date. When the child is born, he or she can be transported from the delivery room to the NICU or over to the OR, all under the same roof. This is safe for the mom, safe for the child and comforting for the rest of the family.

In 2014, we served families from 98 counties throughout Georgia, and 75 percent of our families live south of Macon.

The house has also partnered with the pediatric program’s parent volunteer group, the Children’s Heart Program Volunteer Council, to ensure that all Heart Kids get everything they need when they stay with us. Meals, toys and friendship are provided by the council. They also are constant participants at our annual Plane Pull and even won the coveted trophy last year! Go Little Brave Hearts!

Families can stay at the house and not worry about everyday details, like what’s for dinner or where to sleep. We take care of the little things so they can focus on what’s really important: the health of their child. Our house has 23 bedrooms, each with a private bathroom, full kitchen, dining room, play rooms, and lots of fun distractions offered daily. We provide all meals, which are lovingly prepared daily by volunteers, and hugs are given away freely. Families are asked for a donation to stay with us, but no family is ever turned away for an inability to pay.

Our partnership with the Children’s Hospital of Georgia is strong. We are proud to be here for pediatric heart patients and their families. Our pediatric heart patients deserve the best care possible, and, in Augusta, they receive it within the hospital and at the Ronald McDonald House. Thank you to the physicians, nurses and all the staff at Children’s Hospital of Georgia for allowing us to help you take care of our littlest hearts.

Note: Mrs. Murdison is married to pediatric cardiologist Dr. Kenneth Murdison and happy to be his partner in helping his patients!