Triumphs with Triplets: A Family’s Journey from Adversity to Advocacy with RMHC CTX

Karen Cruickshanks Family 2023

At the core of Ronald McDonald House Charities is our commitment to providing comfort and support to families facing their most trying moments. We recognize that when a child is thrust into an unexpected medical crisis, parents’ primary focus naturally shifts to caring for their little ones. In such tumultuous times, even the most basic needs, like nourishment, rest, and emotional support, can easily slip through the cracks.

That’s precisely why we do what we do – to ensure that while families are tending to their children’s needs, they, too, are receiving the care and support they require. We prioritize the fundamental necessities so that families can channel all their energy into nurturing their child’s well-being without worrying about the essentials.

One family story we were honored to be a part of, is Karen Cruickshanks, a mother of triplets, who found herself in the midst of a medical journey filled with challenges when her three children, Charlie, Lucy, and James, arrived prematurely at 33 weeks.


Cruickshank’s Introduction to Ronald McDonald House Charities

5 years ago, Karen Cruickshanks’ journey into motherhood took an unexpected turn when she went into labor at just 30 weeks gestation. With premature triplets weighing between 3 and 4 pounds each, Karen faced a multitude of challenges, from her infants’ medical complications to her own health concerns. Lucy, with underdeveloped lungs, and Charlie, with an irregular heart rhythm, while James, the smallest of the trio, faced gastrointestinal complications.

While her three infants were in the NICU at the St. David’s Medical Center North, Karen found peace and support in a Ronald McDonald Family Room. After the NICU nurses put Karen into contact with RMHC CTX, Karen was offered a Family Room near the NICU—a haven where she could rest and be near her newborns. “Being able to get some rest was a huge gift to our family,” Karen reflects. “On that day I was discharged from the hospital and able to stay at the Family Room, it was Christmas Day, so we were all able to spend our first Christmas together because of the Ronald McDonald House.”

The significance of that first Christmas remains etched in Karen’s memory, symbolized by three Christmas ornaments crafted by the NICU nurses, representing each of her children. “Every year the kids help me put them up on the tree, and I tell them this story about how we were all here together for Christmas,” Karen shares, highlighting the lasting impact of RMHC’s support on her family.

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An Inside Look on Navigating Medical Challenges

Despite the initial trials, Karen’s resilience was evident as her children thrived and reached developmental milestones by age two. However, their journey took an unexpected turn when Charlie experienced a seizure in July 2022, leading to a diagnosis of a rare form of epilepsy. The subsequent year saw Charlie hospitalized six times, totaling 45 days, as Karen and her family tried to find the best treatment for his condition.

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Throughout Charlie’s medical journey, RMHC remained a steadfast source of support, offering services like the Happy Wheels Cart, stocked with snacks, toys, books, toiletries, and more which provided him with much-needed distraction and comfort during hospital stays. “I am very appreciative of the toiletries, it’s these small things that really make a difference while people stay at the hospital,” Karen notes, reflecting on the practical assistance provided by RMHC during moments of crisis.

In October 2023, Charlie experienced a severe reaction to treatment, necessitating a 19-day hospital stay. “Sleep is crucial in those situations,” Karen stresses, recalling the immense strain of sleep deprivation. “You cannot care for your child if you don’t get sleep.” Karen vividly recalls the exhaustion she endured, having gone without sleep for a staggering 60 hours before reaching out to RMHC for assistance. Fortunately, a room was available, providing her with the opportunity for a much-needed full night’s rest.

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The Significance Behind Donations and Volunteering

Reflecting on her experience, Karen emphasizes the impact of donations and volunteering on families like hers. “When donating to Ronald McDonald House, you’re making a huge difference,” she asserts. “Medical problems and diagnoses can happen at any time and to anyone. I would say it makes a difference right here in your community, people like me, people you know, in moments where they really need support around them.”

Because Karen received so much community support through RMHC CTX during her time at the hospital, she and her family have been very involved in volunteering, whether it be through cooking, gift wrapping, or simply sharing her own story for another family to see and relate to.

“I’ve been so touched by how people have supported us while we’ve gone through our journeys,” Karen reflects. “I really want to help other people and let them know they’re not alone.” Through sharing her story and volunteering with RMHC, Karen exemplifies the spirit of giving back and ensuring that others facing similar challenges feel supported. “Whatever the future looks like,” Karen asserts, “there is a community around us and resources.”

As Karen continues her courageous journey with Charlie’s condition, she remains hopeful and optimistic by the outpouring of compassion from her community and organizations like RMHC. Through her poignant story, Karen exemplifies the resilience of families facing pediatric medical crises and underscores the invaluable role of organizations like RMHC in providing unwavering compassion, support, and hope to families in need.

Why Their Story Matters

At RMHC CTX, we are profoundly proud to have been a part of Karen’s journey thus far, offering our support during her family’s most challenging moments. As she navigates the path ahead in search of the best treatment for Charlie, we stand ready to offer any assistance she may need, just as we have done throughout her journey.

Karen’s commitment to giving back to her community and RMHC CTX exemplifies the spirit of generosity that defines our organization. By sharing her story and volunteering her time, Karen ensures that other families facing similar challenges can benefit from the same support and compassion that she received.

As Karen’s story illustrates, the impact of donations and volunteering extends far beyond the surface. A full night’s rest, a toothbrush, or a warm meal may seem like simple gestures, but for families navigating pediatric medical crises, they can make all the difference. By donating or volunteering, individuals can directly contribute to easing the burden on these families, allowing them to focus on what truly matters—being present for their children.