Crystal McVay found herself driving from Panama City, Florida to St. Petersburg on the busiest travel day of the year, Sunday after Thanksgiving. Traffic was horrible and having a tired seven-year old daughter named Abbigayle in the car did not help matters. Abbi suffers from extreme anxiety and her mom decided to try the treatment offered at the Rothman Clinic near All Children’s Hospital.
Abbi has suffered a great deal in her short seven years. Because school was difficult she was sent to a school for kids with special needs and emotional disorders. The diagnosis varied from doctor to doctor, some speculating that Abbi has OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) but Crystal did not see all the signs that would point to OCD. Abbi had none of the repetitive issues or rituals associated with this disorder.
As a registered nurse, Crystal is a savvy parent who realized there was no treatment available near their home, so she took Abbigayle to see a doctor in Dothen, Alabama. This doctor suggested that extensive exposure therapy might help Abbi, but it is only available in Florida at the Rothman Center. He told Crystal about Ronald McDonald House, so she had some time to research before arriving late in the day on Sunday, November 29th.
Abbigayle is doing well in her daily one-hour treatments at the Rothman Clinic, which requires her to verbalize her anxieties, which include losing her mom. The McVays opted for a two-week treatment plan before returning to home in Panama City, where Abbigayle will continue to work on therapy recommended by the clinic. Crystal knows there is no quick cure for her little girl, but is hopeful that with time and daily reinforcement therapy, Abbi will eventually get better. While the clinic’s normal course of treatment is three weeks, Crystal felt that two weeks away from their lives including time away from work and schooling for her masters is all they could handle. Life as a single parent is hard enough without having to drop everything for a two-week period.
Crystal was very surprised to see the St. Petersburg West House, and was pleasantly surprised to find a warm and welcoming environment after their long day of travel. They are both enjoying the home cooked meals every night provided by community groups and volunteers. They find the 18-bedroom house just the right size, which keeps all the families in close quarters. Crystal’s comment that “Meeting other families helps me put things into perspective” is a common sentiment amongst RMH parents. She says that the staff and volunteers make their stay fun, while their day trips to the aquariums and theme parks also add to their enjoyment.
Now that the McVays have stayed in a Ronald McDonald House, they have a whole new perspective on what it means to drop their change into the donation boxes at McDonald’s, since every penny supports the charity. They will return home with a renewed sense of hope and a new support system that will help them through this next phase of Abbigayle’s treatment.