Little Tanner is only 18 months old and he has already had open heart surgery when he was just 2-days-old. He's had at least six other surgeries and more are on the way. He may eventually need a heart transplant. "What is wrong with his heart is it's flipped backwards. The right side of his heart did not develop," his mother Monica Woods said.
Monica and Jimmy Woods have spent the last couple of years in and out of UCSF's Children's Hospital because of Tanner's heart problems. It hasn't been easy. They live in Turlock, at least a two-hour drive from the hospital, and both have jobs as teachers, but they've been able to survive financially thanks to Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco.
"As soon as I was discharged, we had no place to go, so we started staying in hotel rooms but even after just a few days, that adds up really quickly," Monica said. Ronald McDonald House offered them a family-like place to stay so they could finally bring their little girl McKenzie. They were separated a lot. She was only 18-months-old herself when Tanner was born."It was nice to have a place for her to stay and for us to keep that bond with her since she was so little," Monica said. Just thinking about that difficult time is painful.
Families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco learn very quickly that it's more than a place just to sleep. "Other families that stay here and the staff are very supportive. It was good just to talk to them and get advice," Jimmy recalled. "We had people come to prepare us food."
"The families are touched that people they don't even know care about them," said Lois Moore with the Ronald McDonald House. Asked what it would be if she had one wish for the house she replied, "We've had a waiting list for a long time. So, getting rid of that waiting list would be a wonderful accomplishment." That will happen in 2015 thanks to the new UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital being built at Mission Bay. A Ronald McDonald house will be inside the hospital. "We're starting a campaign to help us grow our programs in the hospital," Moore said.
That's going to make a huge difference to families like Monica and Jimmy Woods. "We love everyone at this house and we would do anything for this house," Monica said. "It would have been really difficult and very stressful if it wasn't for the Ronald McDonald House," Jimmy added.
ABC7 News anchor Cheryl Jennings and meteorologist Mike Nicco will emcee a big fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House next week on October 12. Click here for more information.