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The Ronald McDonald House

By Dr Marjorie O'Neill, Member for Coogee on April 7, 2021 in People

Marj and Gary making Big Macs. Photo: Rachel Stoddart

Being able to identify with the perspectives and experiences of others is valued in our society, and for good reason. Empathy narrows the gaps between people and produces tolerance, understanding and kindness. Our literature, music, poetry and common expressions abound with the symbolism of walking in another’s shoes. Although we appreciate the value of being able to see life from different perspectives, our capacity to actually do this is limited by our own lives.
Living in the Eastern Suburbs, it is easy to take for granted our easy access to world-class hospitals and healthcare across all fields of medicine including exemplary maternity and paediatrics facilities. We have plenty to complain about, like traffic congestion and lack of parking, but the reality is that when we need medical services they are close by. We have the only female-specific hospital in all of New South Wales, which means that often complex births from across the state are sent here. We also have a fabulous children’s hospital.
Few areas in New South Wales enjoy the quality medical and hospital facilities we have, and accessing these services is fraught with major difficulties for those living outside our locality. The costs associated with travel, issues of accommodation, maintaining income, balancing family and work commitments, as well as the emotional issues associated with a loved one’s illness are some of the very real problems confronting those who need the facilities we take for granted. These issues have been amplified during the pandemic.
I thought I understood these issues and, in particular, the problems facing people needing to access medical facilities based in our area. In the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to engage with people accessing local medical facilities who live a long way away, and I have learnt a lot.
Together with a number of other participants, most of whom were business leaders, I participated in an immersive exercise at The Ronald McDonald House where I stayed overnight and took part in an exercise that exposed us to the reality of peoples’ experiences. The scenario I experienced concerned a family that lived 100 kilometres west of Griffith and I was required to research ‘my child’s disease’ and immerse myself in the family’s shoes for 24 hours. With other outside participants, I cooked meals for families who were staying at The House, engaged in conversations with them and learnt about their experiences.
For me, this was a life changing experience. It is one thing to imagine the difficulties such people face; it is quite a different matter to hear from a young mother and father the pain they are experiencing and the fears they hold. The challenges of accessing health care for seriously ill kids from regional and remote parts of New South Wales and the barrage of challenges that presents for families is seriously concerning.
The Ronald McDonald House provides a lifeline to people seriously in need of assistance with accommodation and support. It is only accessible to those who live more than 100 kilometres away and have their child at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick. While McDonalds and other major partners provide valuable contributions, the majority of funding is provided through charitable donations from the community. It needs our support.
I urge our Eastern Suburbs community to learn more about The Ronald McDonald House and the work they do. Not only do they have another CEO evening coming up, if you’re looking for team building experience and would like to learn more about the work they do you can volunteer in the kitchen, take some pressure off families and cook them a meal, and meet some wonderful people.