When my daughter was born with a multicystic diplastic kidney, it seemed like every other week that we were making the trip to Oxford Children’s Hospital. My wife got the worst of it by far, having to spend her days and nights in the same chair beside my daughter’s cot, with what amounted to a window sill with a cushion on it for a bed when she got the rare opportunity to sleep. My life was a little cushier – I got to sleep in my own bed, at home, albeit disrupted regularly by my one year old son waking wanting his mummy.

Every morning I would get up and give him breakfast, then drive the 50 or so miles to the hospital, spend the day with mummy and his sister, then drive 50 miles home in time to put him to bed. Daytime duties were taken care of by whoever was free and willing – Granny, Grandma, aunties or friends. It was exhausting, and I longed for a way to stay near the hospital for a night or two. I tried a hotel (in the loosest form), staying at a Days Inn at services near the hospital – all that was available at short notice. It was disgraceful – even though I slept on top of the disgusting bed I woke up covered in bites and the room stank so much of cigarettes that I left my clothes in the bath to try to avoid them smelling too bad in the morning.

Then one visit, as we arrived we were given the awesome news – there was a bed available in Ronald McDonald House. Just upstairs from Tom’s Ward, here was a sanctuary within the hospital. Two single beds, a pull out third bed and an en-suite shower. Wonderful! It meant that I could stay late with my wife, giving her that little extra support and company that makes all the difference, and I was there with her when my daughter woke up the following morning. There were all sorts of people staying there – I didn’t get speaking to many as some were obviously going through tough times and weren’t in the mood to speak but feedback for the facility was universally glowing.

Ronald McDonald HouseThe cost? Absolutely free. There’s a £20 deposit you need to give for the key, and I suspect very few people actually ask for that back. Of course, if you can pay towards your stay you should and we made a donation to the Ronald McDonald House charity once we were back home.

Now every time I visit McDonalds I know where the change in the charity box by the till goes. And my loose change always goes in.