Serenity’s Journey

“Mentally you go through so much and to be able to get away to the Ronald McDonald House is very relaxing,” Nicole, RMHC Mom

Nicole and her daughter, Serenity, are no strangers to the Ronald McDonald House. Their first stay at the Charity was in California where Serenity was being treated for a rare autoimmune disease, Scleroderma. After two years, it was determined that Serenity needed a stem cell transplant, requiring them to travel to a hospital more than 2,000 miles from their Sacramento home.

“We came to Pittsburgh to save my daughter’s life,” said Nicole.

Being treated by Dr. Kathryn Torok, a rheumatologist who specializes in this autoimmune disease with a team of clinicians, Serenity was the fifth person in the nation to have a stem cell transplant for Scleroderma.

Once again, the Ronald McDonald House is playing a special role in their journey. Being connected to the hospital has brought them great comfort. They are grateful to have a place near Serenity’s care to lay their heads and have access to meals, but it also has given them something more. It’s a place where they can focus on their own well-being during this time.

“Mentally you go through so much and to be able to get away to the Ronald McDonald House is very relaxing,” said Nicole.

Following the transplant, Serenity was able to join her mom at the House which gives her the chance to show off her cooking skills. She loves to cook and uses the community kitchen to make lasagna and banana nut bread from scratch.

Nicole enjoys visiting the House library for some quiet time but also finds getting to know the other families staying at the House to be just as supportive.

“We lift each other up, it’s inspiring.” she said.

The mother/daughter duo even attended a Steelers and Penguins game with other families. Having never gone to a game before, they were impressed with how the city supports its teams and hometown.

“It was so much fun and it makes you a fan even if you are not from here,” said Nicole.

Recently, Serenity celebrated her 19th birthday and Nicole made sure her daughter had a special day. Inviting all of the families to join them, she decorated the dining room and brought cake and pizza for all to enjoy.

Being away from home has not stopped Serenity from achieving her goal of becoming a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. She takes online courses at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore where she is earning a 4.0 in her first semester. She is also the recipient of the Scleroderma Scholarship.

Nicole and Serenity don’t know how long they will be at the Charity as Serenity continues to see her physicians on an outpatient basis, but they do know that the comfort they find at the House will make the journey a little easier.

“I wouldn’t know what to do without it,” said Nicole. “This place puts a smile on our faces and our children’s.