The Hennigan Family

The Hennigan Family and RMHC-CP—An Ongoing Story

The Hennigan family has a long history with Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Central PA, beginning with their daughter Paige’s remarkable entrance into the world in 2007. Since then, the Hennigan’s have utilized RMHC-CP’s services across a span of 14 years.

Janine Hennigan was only 24 weeks pregnant when she was flown to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for an emergency c-section in November 2007. Her husband, Ed Hennigan, was making the two-hour drive from Exeter, PA, when their daughter, Paige, was born weighing one pound, one ounce.

“When I talked to the doctor on the car ride down, he told me there was only a fifty percent chance that Paige would survive because she was so premature,” Ed said. “And on top of that, Janine’s health was at serious risk because without the emergency c-section, she could’ve died.”

Even after the c-section, Janine was still so ill that she didn’t get to see Paige until two days later. “We weren’t even able to hold Paige until she was almost a month old because of the intense care she needed,” Ed recalled.

To add to the stress the Hennigan family was facing, Paige was born with a grade four intraventricular hemorrhage in her brain. The doctors had to act quickly to get the bleeding under control.

After about a month in the NICU, the doctors discovered Paige had a bacterial infection that was causing hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid in her brain. To relieve the pressure on Paige’s brain, the doctors placed a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt surgically.

During this emotional whirlwind, Ed, and Janine, once she was released, was able to stay minutes away from the hospital at the Ronald McDonald House in Hershey. “When both Janine and Paige were in the hospital, I had initially stayed at a local hotel for a few days, which became expensive very quickly,” Ed said. “When the head nurse at the hospital told me about the Ronald McDonald House, I was so relieved.”

Janine and Ed stayed at the RMH from November 2007 to March 2008. They remember celebrating Christmas, New Years, and Easter with their RMHC family.

“It was so important to us to be able to stay close to Paige,” Ed said, “The Ronald McDonald House made that possible for us and along with it, saved us money on gas and hotel stays and made us feel comfortable during a hard time.”

“Once we were here, we felt like we were close to family,” Janine said. “We became close with the staff and volunteers and found support in new friendships we made with other RMHC families that were going through a similar situation.”

Unfortunately, their first stay wouldn’t be their last. When Paige was two years old, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. From that time on, the Hennigan’s needed to travel to Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital 2-3 times a year for her neurologist to monitor her condition with an electroencephalogram (EEG) test, which detects electrical impulses in the brain. Paige’s EEG tests can require monitoring for 24, sometimes 48, hours straight to record seizure activity. Being able to stay at the RMH during her monitoring allowed the Hennigan’s to focus on Paige’s care instead of worrying about traveling back and forth to home.

“We’re very thankful to know this place is here when we need it,” Janine said. “It always has been.”

“Waking up at the Ronald McDonald House doesn’t feel like being in a hotel,” Ed said, “It feels like we’re in our home away from home.”

In the last year, Paige had some serious issues with her VP shunt. The shunt placed when she was a newborn had shifted, putting Paige in pain and discomfort. The doctors repositioned her current shunt, but later needed to replace it with a new one. Since her last procedure, she has been doing well. Her family and medical team makes sure to monitor it regularly, as she will have it for the rest of her life.

After more than a dozen stays at the RMH, the Hennigan family has made their own Hershey traditions. They always make sure to go to Hoss’s, which is Paige’s favorite place to stop for food before going home to Exeter. She even has a “special seat” by the window!

“Every time we come down for one of Paige’s appointments, we go to Chocolate World and Paige has to go on the tour ride,” Ed said. She loves to travel and go to amusement parks. The Hennigan’s have a seasonal campsite they frequently visit, which Paige named “Hershey Kiss.”

The Hennigan family story is a great example of how RMHC-CP can help families with children who have conditions that require frequent tests, monitoring, and check-ins with a doctor or specialist.

“Whenever we leave the Ronald McDonald House, we find comfort knowing it isn’t ‘Goodbye’ it’s ‘See you soon!’” Janine said, “It will always have a special place in our hearts as our home away from home.”

Help keep families like the Hennigan’s together when they need it most by making a donation today!

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