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A McHappy home away from home

HerCanberra Team

Charlie Urquhart was born 11 weeks premature. His mum and dad have relocated to Ronald McDonald House to be by his side.

When Jessica Sivell went into premature labour 11 weeks ahead of her due date, the team at Goulburn Hospital rushed her to Canberra for immediate medical care.

A condition called HELLP Syndrome – a variant of the life-threatening condition preeclampsia – meant she had to deliver that day.

And beautiful baby Charlie entered the world at just 29 weeks gestation – requiring the skill and high-level care of the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.


Jessica and Harley with their newborn Charlie

That means that Jessica and Charlie’s dad Harley have had to temporarily suspend their life in Goulburn while they stay by Charlie’s bedside.

And were it not for Ronald McDonald House this bedside vigil would have been immeasurably more traumatic.


The couple have temporarily relocated to a new home – Ronald McDonald House Canberra, which opened in October 2012 and has already supported more than 1100 families.

For Jessica and Harley, it means they do not have to be separated from their newborn overnight and they are saved the grueling task of traveling to and from Goulburn every day while Charlie builds up his strength.

“It has made a huge difference for us to be able to stay here. It saves us so much money of having to rent anything and of course the hassle of having to drive back and forth every day,” says Jessica.

“We are hoping Charlie can be home by Christmas but we will take each day as it comes.”

According to Michelle McCormack, Executive Officer of Ronald McDonald House Canberra, the service to regional families of having a home away from home has been invaluable.

Some families stay a night, while the record is 131 nights. The average stay is between six and seven weeks.


Also located in the Centenary Hospital for Women & Children is the Ronald McDonald Family Room.

This space offers families a chance to remove themselves from the clinical environment of the ward and enjoy a cup of tea a chat with one of the dedicated volunteers. Offering everything from children’s games and books on a comfy sofa to a shower with shampoo and conditioner for mums who find themselves suddenly confined to the pediatric ward with a sick one, the family room is operated completely by the volunteer base and averages about 1100 visits a month.

Jessica said she had never come into contact with the work of Ronald McDonald House before now but she was incredibly thankful the service existed.

“It has really provided us with the best of both worlds during a stressful time – a beautiful home to stay in and the comfort of some amazing staff.”

McHappy Day will take place on Saturday 12 November at every McDonald’s around Canberra. Every Big Mac sold will see $2 donated to help families with seriously ill children stay together.


Her Canberra

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