In 2010, 19-year-old Ashlee Hannah brought her first and only child, Brayden, to the doctor for his 2-month checkup and immunizations. Brayden reacted badly to the shots – his mouth and throat blistered and his pediatrician immediately sent him to the local hospital in Tombstone, Arizona.
Through a battery of tests, including blood draws and a spinal tap, Brayden’s health continued to deteriorate – he couldn’t eat on his own and doctors had to insert an NG tube for feedings. After several days of tests at the hospital, Brayden was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) – and that his only chance for survival would be a bone marrow transplant at UCSF in San Francisco.
“He had a lot of procedures done to him; I'd seen him at his worst. At times, I never knew if I would wake up to my little baby boy being alive.”
Brayden was inpatient at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital for five months, and Ashlee didn’t leave his side. She was able to be his bone marrow donor, and looking back, “I am so glad that there was a way for him to live, with the great doctors and nurses at UCSF.”
As Brayden recovered from his transplant, he continued treatment at UCSF and therefore couldn’t go home to Arizona.
“I was only 18, away from my family in a city I'd never been to… We lived at Family House for 11 months, and my son experienced all of his ‘firsts’ at Family House - holidays, his first Christmas. I live in a very small town and am definitely not a city girl, so it was my ‘first’ for a lot of things, too.
“The staff were always there for me when I needed to talk or needed help. They were my family away from family. If I didn't have the Family House I honestly can say I have no idea what I would've done.
“They helped me with transportation, gave me gift cards, and when money my parents sent was stolen in the mail, Family House actually made up the difference. I was speechless because they didn't need to do that, but they did! The organization is honestly a true blessing - they're truly wonderful people there.”
Brayden is now four years old, and he is into everything - just like other boys his age. He continues to receive IVIG antibody treatments in Arizona (making up for his body’s natural lack of B Cells), and returns to UCSF annually for checkups.
To other parents of children with a life-threatening illness, Ashlee advises, “You might go through a lot of hiccups down your road when you have a sick child, but you have to be strong for yourself and for your child. Never give up! Make sure you have a great support system like I did with my family, the Family House, and the great medical team that saved my sons life. Know that you're not alone!”
Marco Rodriquez first heard about Family House through the Psychology Practicum class at the University of San Francisco. He joined Family House as the an Operations Volunteer Leader at 10th Ave and worked to maintain the garden areas to provide a peaceful and well kept areas for the families.
He was drawn to Family House as he had helped at UCSF by volunteering to pass out books and magazines to critically ill patients. Marco has also volunteered in the St. Anthony’s soup kitchen preparing fresh meals for clients needing their services.
Marco was successful at completing his summer project at Family House which was to restructure the irrigation system to ensure the flowers and plants received the correct amount of water all year long. On a day-to-day basis Marco also helped our Operations team with house projects, manage volunteer groups and even has been able to utilize his Spanish speaking skills at Family House.
When Marco isn’t volunteering or working on school work he enjoys spending time reading at home, cooking delicious meals and swimming. Thank you Marco for all of your help this summer at Family House!
My wife, Megan, was the Resident Manager here at Family
House and that was in September of 1997 or 1998. Then in 2001 I became a
Weekend Manager. And in 2002 I became the Resident Manager.
How has Family House
changed since you first started?
When I first started, Megan and I were living in the
manager’s unit at the 50 Irving Street house – we had only 10 bedrooms
available for families, and at the time, this was the only building Family House
had to work with. It was light and lean; a wonderful small nonprofit serving
families primarily in the oncology department. We had three rooms for patients
receiving chemotherapy, three rooms for bone marrow transplant patients, and
three rooms for radiation patients. There was an unfortunate limitation of
families served due to our limited resources. Then in 2002, when we opened the
new house on 10th and Irving, we were able to help house the entire
out-of-town pediatric oncology patient population. We went from ten rooms to
thirty-four rooms, and that was very exciting!
What are some of your
favorite Family House memories?
Definitely giving guitar lessons to kids, singing songs with
the kids, and Christmases are definitely a highlight. I will always remember
being Santa Claus on Christmas Eve - putting presents outside families’ doors
and giving them just a little jolt of good Christmas cheer while they are all
so far away from home. Nothing is as satisfying as being able to give these
families a little bit of happiness while they are going through such a
difficult time in life.