On her birthday, 14-year-old Francesca of Mantua, Italy, learned that she had myelodysplasia leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. She would have to leave home and stay in a hospital that was more than an hour from her home to undergo medical treatment. It was the worst birthday possible. And it felt so random. As if someone had flipped a coin: Heads: life stays the same. You live like a normal teenager, surrounded by your friends and loving family. Tails: everything changes. You leave home to sit alone in a hospital room more than an hour from home, worrying about your uncertain future.
But Francesca had RMHC on her side. Thanks to RMHC Italy, her family was able to be with her during five months of treatment and recovery. She had luck on her side, too. It turned out that her brother Matteo was a compatible bone marrow donor. He was able to give her the greatest of gifts: hope and a real chance to have the good health and normal life she longed for.
For much of the time Francesca and her family spent at the Ronald McDonald House in Brescia, she was able to enjoy things that most teenagers love: listening to music, playing on the computer, and making new friends. After her initial recovery, Francesca was even able to receive visits from her friends and other family members at the House. Spending time with the people she loves made Francesca feel at home at the Ronald McDonald House. What a difference that made in her recovery.
Today, Francesca is 17 – or as she likes to say, 14 + 3. She is recovering, and so far, everything is going well. She is back in school and still keeps in touch with some of the new friends she made at the Ronald McDonald House in Brescia.
Francesca and Matteo are very committed to sharing their story. They do speaking engagements at local schools to talk about leukemia and bone marrow transplants. And every year their family visits the Ronald McDonald House together. It has become a family tradition.
Francesca’s beautiful video demonstrates the crucial difference RMHC makes in the lives of families with sick children all over the world.