Home, Heart, Hope

The Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland eases your soul when you’re going through something traumatic.
— Bryan Talbott

The Talbott family’s medical journey began 23 years ago. That’s when Alex was born prematurely, weighing just one pound, 13 ounces. Five years later, Michael came into the world, also weighing less than two pounds. The family, who lives outside of Steubenville, Ohio, drove 45 minutes each way, every day to be with Michael during his 100-day stay in a Pittsburgh hospital.  

Both Alex and Michael have cerebral palsy. When Alex began to develop frequent seizures, his parents, Nicole and Bryan, brought him to Cleveland for medical treatment. They were prepared to pay the usual $225 a night to stay in a hotel…until the Ronald McDonald House called to say they had a room for them.

“This place is pretty amazing,” says Nicole. “We feel like we’re staying at a resort!”

For the Talbotts, the House feels like their own home. Nicole goes down in the morning and makes coffee. Bryan parks their van in a secure lot. They have dinner every night, prepared by volunteers, and even when they’re not back from the hospital until late at night, there’s always something available for them to eat. And they’re only a short walk to the hospital, so they can be at their children’s side in a matter of minutes. “It’s easier on you mind and body to be close to your child,” says Bryan.

But more important than the beautiful rooms, the nutritious food, and the financial help are the nurturing friendships the Talbotts have made with the other families staying at the House.

“Back home, people don’t understand what it’s like caring for two children with special needs. We take it for granted that this is our life. It’s what we do,” Nicole explains. “Here at the Ronald McDonald House, we don’t feel different because everyone else is going through the same thing.”

The Talbotts have bonded with other guests, swapping stories and sharing knowledge that has helped them explore solutions with the doctors. When Nicole celebrated her birthday at the House in June, she bought pizza for everyone and had a party with all the families in the kitchen.

The House is a comfortable place close to the hospital. While Alex is with doctors, Michael can stay at the House and play with his firetrucks and other children. He’s made a special friendship with Mubarak, a 17-year-old from Saudi Arabia. Although they do not speak the same language, Nicole and her family are able to communicate with Mubarak through gestures and expressions. “It’s a love connection!”

The Talbotts have become huge fans of the House. They purchased a paver brick in honor of Alex and Michael, and they wear their Ronald McDonald House t-shirts with pride. They’ve made doctors’ appointments in December so they can see the House at Christmas.

Nicole explains, “The volunteers, the security staff, the other guests. We’re so happy to be a member of the Ronald McDonald House family.” 

And the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland is honored to be part of the Talbott family.