The Baxter Family

“Since Emma was born, she has been in and out of the hospital battling frequent infections,” said, Emma’s mom, Amanda Baxter. “When we were presented the option of a bone-marrow transplant years later, we had to consider it.”

Severe Congenital Neutropenia, Emma’s official diagnosis, had a higher probability of turning into Leukemia if not treated.

Emma was only four-years-old when presented with this very difficult decision.

“We asked her what she would rather do,” Amanda said. “Be really sick for a short period of time or be a little sick for the rest of her life.”

Emma and her family chose to go through with a bone-marrow transplant and they knew that her 3-year-old sister, Paisley, matched seven out of eight tests.

Amanda and her husband, Alex, decided to move forward with Paisley as the bone-marrow donor because they felt it gave Emma the best chance for success.

The Baxter family from Hanover, PA visited Penn State Children’s Hospital in April for a three-week span while Emma had preliminary testing. During this time, they learned about the services provided by the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Hershey.

“I had heard of the Ronald McDonald House before but I didn’t know what it was or how it helps families,” Amanda said. “It is such a blessing being able to be nearby and have a shuttle service that takes you to the hospital and back.”

A few weeks later on May 1st, the Baxter family checked into Penn State Children’s Hospital to start prepping for Emma and Paisley’s bone-marrow transplant day. On May 29th, they checked into the RMH to continue their “positive days.”

“For patients receiving bone-marrow, there are negative days (chemo and conditioning) and day zero is transplant day,” Amanda said. “After transplant day, you have positive days, and that is when we checked into the RMH as you’re required to stay nearby for 100 positive days.”

As bone-marrow patients have specific requirements due to weakened immune systems, the RMH offers accommodations in a suite that includes two rooms conjoined with a small kitchenette and living space for families like the Baxters.

“It has been so nice to have more room as a family since Emma cannot leave the suite,” Amanda said. “It is like having our own apartment here in Hershey.”

Amanda, Paisley, and Emma have stayed at the RMH in Hershey for more than 130 nights so far.

Alex, Amanda’s husband, travels for work and visits his family as much as he can. They can’t wait until they are back together again at home.

“Without the RMH, our family would have a lot more that we would have to be worrying about besides our child getting better,” Amanda said.

Emma turned five years old in August and celebrated with her favorite cupcakes and big balloons filling her suite at the RMH.

“Emma has had a lot of big moments here,” Amanda said. “She turned five here. She learned how to ride a bike here. And although it was not at our house in Hanover that these moments happened, I’m happy they were at our second home, the Ronald McDonald House.”

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