From the Spec:
This wasn’t the first year Jeanette Arsenault spent her holidays away from home so she could be close to her brother, Ronald.
For the fourth year in a row, the 57-year-old didn’t wake up Christmas morning at her home in Belleville, but she did find a stocking hanging on her door at the place she calls her “home away from home,” Mark Preece Family House.
“The staff here is so welcoming you do feel like you’ve got a second home,” she said of the accommodations for out-of-town families with loved ones in critical care at a Hamilton hospital.
It started with Christmas 2011 when Ronald’s health took a turn for the worst.
Born with cerebral palsy, the now 56-year-old was moved from his residential home for adults with developmental disabilities to the hospital. Though he has always required total care, he now uses a trach to breathe and a feeding tube to eat.
In early 2012, Arsenault learned of the support available through the Barton Street facility.
Since then, she’s stayed at the 24-bedroom home almost once a week plus longer stretches when Ronald – who has spastic quadriplegia, the most severe form of cerebral palsy – goes into crisis.
In addition to the bedrooms available to guests at affordable rates, the beautifully decorated space is also home to a lounge, shared kitchen and laundry room.
“In the midst of your stress and your grief and the hardship of dealing with your loved one, whatever the medical situation is, you need a respite,” she said. “You have to be strong.”
Arsenault – a singer-songwriter – visits her brother every Christmas, as well as other holidays such as Halloween and Valentine’s Day.
On Christmas, she headed out to see Ronald at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, where he’s in complex care . She expected he’d be waiting in the common room for her.
“I’ll probably put his Santa hat on,” she said with a laugh. “I usually like to take him for a walk.”
Back at Mark Preece house, visitors could celebrate the holidays with a catered turkey dinner complete with the fixings – stuffing, veggies, mashed potatoes and dessert – at 6 p.m.
To view the article in the Spec, click here.