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Support Ronald McDonald House Charities – A Safe Haven for Kids Like Parker Netherton

By Zane Davis

Everyone knows about McDonalds restaurants and their food, and everyone has seen the Ronald McDonald House donation boxes below the drive-up window at all of the restaurants, but what is the Ronald McDonald House?  
The Idaho Ronald McDonald House is located at 101 Warm Springs Avenue in Boise, Idaho; just blocks away from the St. Luke’s Hospital and the quality health care for thousands of ill children.  The 17-room facility provides housing for families while their child receives medical care, thus alleviating some of the financial burden of acquiring housing while children receive treatment.  The following statement is from the Idaho Ronald McDonald House website (www.rmhcidaho.org):
Families are stronger when they are together, which helps in the healing process. 
By staying at the Idaho Ronald McDonald House, parents also can better communicate 
with their child’s medical team and keep up with complicated treatment plans when needed.

When your child is sick, you want the best care possible – even if it is hundreds or 
thousands of miles away. The Idaho Ronald McDonald House allows families to access specialized medical treatment by providing a place to stay at little or sometimes no cost.

Sometimes, the simplest convenience can make a big difference. At our House, families can 
enjoy:
*  Home-cooked meals
*  Laundry facilities
*  17 bedroom with private bathrooms
*  Indoor and outdoor playrooms for children
*  Recreational activities (e.g., passes to the Zoo, YMCA, Aquarium, Discovery Center, etc.)
Weiser residents, Clint and Sarah Netherton have utilized the services at the Ronald McDonald House in Boise on numerous occasions while tending to the medical needs of their beautiful 4 ½ year old son, Parker.
Clint and Sarah Netherton have been married for five years, and are your typical blended family of five.  The couple has two daughters, Alexie, 11, Emma, 9 and Parker, whom Sarah refers to as her “Honeymoon Present” is 4.  Prior to Parker’s birth, the Netherton’s knew that he would be born with a club foot, but were fully prepared to deal with the issue.  However, shortly after Parker was born, they were confronted with a much more extensive list of medical issues pertaining to their infant son.  Parker was born with acid reflux and a cleft in his trachea, making it difficult for Parker to keep food down and causing him to lose a pound of weight; a devastating amount to a 7 pound, 2 ounce body.  Parker was first admitted to the NICU in Boise at 10 days old, and although Sarah states that much of that first week in the hospital was “a blur”, she does recall the frustration of none of the doctors being able to determine what was wrong with her child and that one doctor stated “I am hopeful, but you need to be prepared for the worst.”  That is a sentence that no parent should ever have to hear.  Parker coded twice in the early days of his initial hospital stay, and Sarah decided in that time that whatever the outcome for her beautiful baby, she was going to make whatever time he had left the very best she could.
Fortunately, the doctors were able to stabilize their baby, and the Nethertons began undergoing a series of genetic testing in an effort to determine what was wrong with Parker.  The geneticists discovered that Parker’s third chromosome has more genetic material than it should.  Sarah Netherton explains that, “If you think of a person’s genetic makeup as a book, and each set of chromosomes is a chapter, the information on each chromosome would be like paragraphs.”  In Parker’s genetic book, “Chapter three has one paragraph toward the end that is normal and then that paragraph is copied three more times.”  Netherton goes on to explain, in her positive and optimistic way that, “Deletions and mutations of chromosomes are scarier.  Duplications and triplications are different.”  This is a powerful statement from a mother that is continually dealing with a lot of “I don’t knows” from medical professionals and told that Parker is the only person that has ever been tested with this particular anomaly.  In fact, Parker doesn’t have a definite diagnosis for the issues that he and his family deal with.  His recorded diagnosis is Chromosomal Anomaly Undiagnosed.
Since Parker’s vague and not terribly reassuring genetic diagnosis, this adorable young man has undergone nine surgeries, at last count.  However, many of these surgeries were dual procedures to treat multiple issues at once.  Due to Parker’s airway issues, anesthesia and intubation is difficult for him, so the Netherton’s try to limit it as much as possible.  Parker’s first surgery was at the young age of two months, and since, Parker’s life as well as the lives of his family members has become a series of doctor visits, tests, hospitalizations and surgeries.  Such an existence, according to Sarah, “Is lonely and overwhelming.”  She added that, “There were times that I literally said, I don’t think I can do this anymore.”  Unfortunately, giving up isn’t an option and in the very next statement, Sarah’s optimistic side shines through and she surges forward.  She stated that “The Ronald McDonald House makes my life easier.” She adds, “I have so many other things to worry about on a regular basis to just keep [Parker] alive that one worry shouldn’t be ‘How can I afford to stay [in Boise] for appointments.’”  The Ronald McDonald House alleviates that one worry for Netherton by providing comfortable housing and meals during their stay.  Netherton also says that the Ronald McDonald House “Makes Parker’s life easier”.  Parker gets excited to go there because after surgeries or long days or testing and appointments, Parker knows that when they get back to the Ronald McDonald House, it’s over.  “It’s like the safe harbor for Parker.  When we get there he knows he can go downstairs and play with the trains or go outside to play on the playground.”  On those particularly rough days, where Parker has endured various types of torture, Netherton states, “It’s easier on him to be able to just play in the bathtub and relax rather than drive an hour and a half back to Weiser.”  According to Sarah, “The staff at the Ronald McDonald House help us celebrate our victories, and are there with support on the bad days”.
Despite the tumultuous life that the Netherton’s lead, and the difficulties that Parker faces and will continue to face for the duration of his life, Parker’s illness is not what defines this little boy.  Parker is a sweet, adorable, loving young man that according to his mother is “A little ornery”, like a typical boy.  Parker loves to play and annoy his sisters and snuggle with his mom.  He loves hats and Mickey Mouse and his family.  He also loves to be silly and is quite a jokester.  In fact, Sarah says just recently he hid his leg brace outside under his slide…just because.  He also buried his brand new hearing aids in the (freshly cleaned) cat box.
Parker and his family will always deal with a lifetime of medical appointments, surgeries and hospital stays, but the love, assistance and compassion of family, aid from organizations like LOVE, Inc., the support of the community of Weiser and places like Weiser Memorial Hospital, that try and ensure that Parker and Sarah get room 17 and set it up how Sarah likes it, make the health care roller coaster a bit easier.  Another major factor in making that roller coaster a bit less scary is the Ronald McDonald House.
The Idaho Ronald McDonald House Charities have been running a fundraising campaign during the month of November to raise funds to help house families at the Boise facility that cannot afford the $10 per night.  Sadly, the campaign will close on November 13, but visitors to the two McDonalds locations in Ontario and the one in Weiser will continue to be able to participate in the fundraiser through the end of the month, according to Jorge Ribeiro, owner of the three local restaurants.  If you are unable to make a large donation to the Ronald McDonald House, do not despair, the change bins in the restaurants and outside the drive-up windows will still be available to receive spare change.  Even the smallest of donations from beneath your car seat can make a huge impact for families dealing with health issues of their children.  Families like the Nethertons.  Please take a moment to do what you can to help the Ronald McDonald House continue to provide for families in their time of need.

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