Newfoundland and Labrador is the place to experience the best that winter has to offer, with some areas of the province receiving up to 16 feet of snow each year. With its pristine powder, exhilarating slopes, and backcountry trails, Newfoundland and Labrador is the place for snowmobiling. In March 2021, Victoria Chaulk and her four-year-old daughter Heidi were visiting a friend’s cabin when they went for a snowmobile ride. It was then that the unexpected happened. Victoria lost control of the snowmobile she was driving and collided with a tree. Everyone was injured including Victoria and her friend but it was Heidi that experienced the most severe injury. “Everything happened so quick. We didn’t even have time to think. We were rushed to hospital in Gander for treatment where they decided Heidi needed to be immediately air lifted to St. John’s” said Victoria.
Heidi suffered a traumatic brain injury which affected her life in multiple ways. She could no longer walk, or talk and experienced issues with short term memory loss. Heidi also developed diabetes insipidus from the brain injury to the pituitary gland which is an uncommon disorder that causes an imbalance of fluids in the body. Heidi would need to learn everything again. Her parents were informed that medical and rehabilitative treatment would extend over the course of Heidi’s childhood and well into her adult life.
“I have absolutely no idea what we would have done. The Ronald McDonald House truly saves us so much worry when it comes to having somewhere to stay close to Heidi in the hospital.”
The family heard about the Ronald McDonald House from a social worker while at the Intensive Care Unit at the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s. “We have previously heard about the Ronald McDonald House but never truly understood the importance of it until we needed it. After long days of hospital appointments, we are able to go back to a home-cooked dinner already prepared and the homemade cookies gave us a feeling of home. Heidi’s favorite place is the Movie Theatre where she would sit and watch her favorite movies and enjoy all the snacks. She also loved the magic room! Heidi was always so excited to pick out a toy when we were ready to go home. It was like an award for her after going through so much at the hospital.”
Since that time, The Chaulk Family have stayed at Ronald McDonald House 118 nights over six visits. While Heidi’s journey is far from over, with treatments expected to continue into her adult life, the Chaulk Family have found strength together at Ronald McDonald House and have come to rely on the vital programs and services.