In 2017, when baby Abigail became very sick at just two months old, her parents, Frank and Sarah, took her to the local hospital in their hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas. After many tests, doctors still could not figure out what was wrong with her. They suggested Abigail be flown to the experts in Cincinnati for critical care. Hearing their only answer was to send them far from home was very scary.
“When doctors said we had to transfer to Cincinnati, I asked if we could not go because I don’t know about Cincinnati, I’ve never been there, it’s far away from home. But they said they could not do anything with our daughter, they didn’t know how to treat her. They thought Cincinnati fit her needs the best.”
The questions running through their minds had no simple answers: Where would they stay? How could they afford it? How would they make this work? Despite these unanswered questions and their mounting fears, the Ching family knew it was the best choice for Abigail’s health.
Upon arriving in Cincinnati, Frank and Sarah felt some relief hearing that this hospital would not transfer them to another hospital; they could care for Abigail. After a few months, doctors finally had a diagnosis: atypical NK cell lymphoproliferative enteropathy. This rare, genetic mutation was causing her body to make cells that were attacking her own skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract. Abigail’s many doctors had never seen anything like her case, but they were not willing to give up.
A bone marrow transplant was the next step, followed by years of a medicine that no one else had ever tried to help fight her disorder. Sarah explained how it felt to get that news:
I was so shocked when I saw that she was with the bone marrow team. It was like a nightmare to us.
For 196 nights after her transplant, Abigail and her family turned to our House for a place to stay just steps next to the hospital. This House became so much more to them.
Staying here was so helpful and we felt so blessed. It was hard for me to take care of Abigail and have my older son here, who was three at the time. My parents came to help because we had the House and they could stay, too. They stayed with my son so I could be with Abigail. They don’t speak English, so they could not go anywhere else. But here in the House, we had everything. I cannot imagine if we didn’t have this House. That would mean I would have to be here by myself. My family couldn’t come to support us. We would have to go buy food, to cook it and it would be a very big expense. It’s such a convenience to have this House!
Your donations bless a lot of families. It’s already hard when your kid is in the hospital and when doctors tell you they don’t know what’s happening to your child; we felt helpless. People helped us by supporting this House. It was so nice to help our family by making us less stressed. For nine months, I ate there and slept there.
Since their long-term stay in Cincinnati, they returned for another 50 nights of care in 2018. Today, Abigail can receive her monthly infusions at her local hospital, but she still needs to come to Cincinnati twice a year. When it’s time for those appointments, they know where to turn to once again for a place to eat, sleep and so much more.
The first time we were here, we were here for a long time and the staff became our friends. Everyone knew us. The activities were great for my son. He had a lot of friends here: some patients, some outpatients, other siblings. It was helpful and good for all of them. We took a picture with his friends. Some didn’t have hair from chemo. He was the only “healthy” kid in the picture, but he couldn’t tell the difference. Many of his friends were from other countries, like Saudi Arabia. We met other families; we shared each other’s stories and encouraged each other. This House is a blessing.
The Ching family faced their worst fears: a hospital with no answers, sending them 12 hours from home with the hope that another hospital in an unknown city could save their daughter. Without our House, this journey would have been much more difficult. We cannot be here for these families without your help and support. Thank you for making this possible.