Chip’s Story

When Richmond-native, Molly Congdon, volunteered for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond, she knew that RMHC helped families with sick children. During the hospitalization of her two-year-old son, Chip, she felt the impact of that help on her family’s medical journey.

“I have a whole new appreciation for RMHC,” Molly explained. 

This April, Chip received penicillin to treat an ear infection. After taking the medicine, he developed a severe reaction. His tiny body was swollen and covered in hives; he had a fever and was visibly in pain. After a visit to the E.R., Chip was admitted to Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital’s pediatric unit where he was diagnosed with serum sickness.

“Nothing prepares you for having a hospitalized toddler,” Molly added.

In addition to the stress and fears Molly and her husband, Whit, faced while caring for Chip, Molly was also nine months pregnant. “Comforting and taking care of Chip was our priority, but it was also really important for me to take care of myself.”

During Chip’s stay in the hospital, the Congdon’s utilized two of RMHC Richmond’s in-hospital programs, the Happy Wheels hospitality cart and the stocked Ronald McDonald Family Room kitchen.

“Sometimes we would be so wrapped up in reports from the nurses and doctors; I would realize I hadn’t had anything to eat. The hospital cafeteria had limited options and hours. Being able to walk down the hall to the RMHC kitchen at any time and grab something to eat as simple as a clementine was so helpful and convenient. Fresh fruit felt like a luxury.”

Chip’s treatment included I.V.s, steroids, and rotating Tylenol and Motrin.

“The first night in the hospital, he could barely sleep; he would just wake up sobbing every twenty minutes. The next day we tried to keep him busy by watching television, but we were all going a little stir crazy. Then, we received a visit from the Happy Wheels cart and two RMHC volunteers. They were so engaging, kind, and understanding. They spoke directly to Chip and he got to pick out stamps and stickers, Play-Doh, and a small stuffed monkey from the cart. We were so thankful to have some activities and distractions to keep his mind off of the pain.”

After 48 hours of ups and downs and round-the-clock care, Chip began to show improvement. He was finally released from the hospital and able to go home. “We were so relieved to all be back at home together and see Chip feeling more like himself,” said Molly.

Nine days later, Molly and Whit took a trip back to the hospital, but for a different reason. They were thrilled to welcome their daughter, Helen, a healthy baby girl.

Chip is back to being a happy, active two-year-old with lots of new responsibilities as a big brother. “Two days in the hospital was tough enough. I truly can’t imagine being the parent of a chronically ill child. I have so much respect for what families go through. It is truly heart wrenching to watch your child suffer; parents shouldn’t have to worry about anything else. RMHC’s services are invaluable.”