United States

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Bryan O'Neal

ARTICLE

I adopted my son when he was 5 years old, knowing that he had a complicated medical history. He weighed 1 pound 7 ounces when he was born at 27 weeks, and shortly after birth he developed a virus that damaged most of his intestines. Because of this he has had countless surgeries to repair his intestines, and is 100 percent dependent on Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) for all of his nutritional needs.

Within four months of the adoption my son had to undergo a procedure to reposition his central line at a St. Louis hospital 2.5 hours away from our home. After the procedure the doctor came in and told us that the central line was working again, but during the procedure he had aspirated his stomach contents into his lungs. I’m not a doctor, but I knew that this couldn’t be good. Still, in the back of my mind I remember thinking, “Okay, Doc, you go get him fixed up, draw up the paperwork, and discharge him so that we can be home in time for dinner.” It obviously wasn’t that easy, and pretty soon I understood the severity of the situation, and that my son was fighting for his life. After a week in the hospital, including four days in the ICU, he finally recovered and we were able to go home.

This was an incredibly stressful and challenging time for our family. Thankfully we had the support of our family and friends to help us through. We also had the full support of RSM, who allowed me to take time off and work remotely, even though we were in the middle of busy season and I had only been on the job for a little more than a year. We were also fortunate to have a place to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. My wife and I were able to take turns spending time away from the ICU in order to rest and recharge. We will never forget the kindness and generosity of the staff and volunteers; complete strangers who got to know us and showed incredible care and concern for us.

Since this incident in 2015 we have had to take our son for specialized medical care in St. Louis, Indianapolis and Omaha. In each of those places we have found the same care and compassion from everyone at the Ronald McDonald Houses.

Within a few months of returning home I became involved with Family House, a local not-for-profit in my hometown that provides affordable home-like accommodations for families of patients receiving medical care in the Peoria, Illinois area. I became a board member in 2015, and became president of the board in 2017. 

In addition to my service on the board, my family and I regularly provide and prepare meals for the guests at Family House. We were always extremely appreciative when groups provided meals during our out-of-town hospital visits, so we want to do the same thing for Family House. Doing this is a great benefit to the families there, because it helps to relieve a little bit of the burden of being away from home, and it also allows for a time to interact with the staff, volunteers and other families staying at the house. This time of interaction is beneficial in helping people support each other during difficult times and celebrate medical victories and recoveries with one another. When we serve a meal at Family House we always take our son with us. He always looks forward to it, because there are usually some kids staying at the house that he can play with.

The current playroom at Family House has some toys and activities for children, but this is one area that could be improved. I will use my Pursue Your Passion funds to outfit the playroom with all new furniture, toys, games, a TV and video games. This would be a worthwhile investment because it would encourage interaction among the children and parents who stay at the house. In our personal experience, whenever our son has stayed with us at Ronald McDonald Houses he always looks forward to the playrooms. This is an important part of the house because kids staying there are away from their home and friends and family, and playing provides a needed distraction from whatever medical situation they are going through. This is true whether the child is there for their own medical care or because a loved one is receiving medical care. 

Additionally, I will use some of the funds to install an outdoor covered grilling station with a new grill. When the weather is nice there are many guests and volunteer groups who grill out, which is another way to make Family House feel like home. 

Family House, like all of the healthcare hospitality houses I have stayed at, provides a calm, comfortable, quiet and safe environment to help people through difficult times. I’m honored to be a part of this wonderful organization. I truly consider serving at Family House to be my passion. I wish that no family ever had to experience a medical crisis away from home, but since there will always be those cases I’m glad I can do my small part to make those families as comfortable as possible.