“Mannat” means ‘special prayer’. 8 year old Yuvraj chose this name for his sister when she was born.
Mannat is in the Calgary Ronald McDonald House now, but home for her – when her family makes that 2.5-hour trip back – is Lethbridge, Alberta.
There were unique circumstances around Mannat’s birth. She has family living in England, but despite this distance, her uncles and one of her aunts got to know little Mannat through this first month of her life.
This is a story about how fast one family shifted travel plans when circumstances came about that required Ronald McDonald House.
Yuvraj and Mannat’s parents are from India. Yuvraj – who was born in Canada – also spent a year in India when he was a baby. The international flavour to this family’s story doesn’t end there.
Yuvraj and Mannat’s mom, Raman, has two brothers, Privthi and Aman. Raman, her husband and her parents moved from India to Canada 15 years ago. Her brothers, however, moved from India to England.
The extended family had been planning a reunion. The intent was that everyone – Raman and her parents coming from Canada, her brothers and their wives from England – to meet in India at the end of 2015.
But in spring, news came that made this family rethink their plans.
Yuvraj was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. 15 days after diagnosis, he was admitted to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary.
Raman, 8 months pregnant at the time, checked in to Ronald McDonald House. And the vacation time that Raman’s brothers had been banking for a trip to India was redirected for an earlier trip, one with a destination of Calgary. Sister-in-law, Jas, arrived first, soon followed by her husband Privthi. Aman arrived in early June.
Yuvraj completed his first round of chemotherapy. He was discharged from the hospital, but the family would continue to stay in Ronald McDonald House to attend the doctor appointments for monitoring Yuvraj’s blood counts.
2 days after Yuvraj was discharged, baby Mannat was born.
Jas notes that, while they haven’t done much sight-seeing, they have seen a lot of Calgary’s medical facilities. Yuvraj’s treatment is at the Alberta Children’s Hospital; Mannat was born at Calgary’s Foothills Hospital.
But one thing that’s astonished her from this trip is Ronald McDonald House. “I’ve seen the coin donation boxes in McDonald’s in England. I never realized what those donations were for.”
She shares a list of the things in the House that she’s been grateful for: “The laundry rooms, the Wi-Fi. There’s park space right outside where we can play soccer with Yuvraj when he has a 4-hour pass to leave the hospital. And his very favourite place in the House is the Teen Room. As soon as he’s in the door, he’s running downstairs to the arcade games.”
She also notes that Yuvraj’s grandma has been busy cooking up meals when she’s at home in Lethbridge and then bringing them to Calgary.
“Yuvraj is very particular. He only wants Indian food. So my mother-in-law brings that for him. We’re so fortunate to be at a Ronald McDonald House where there’s a fridge we can use. If this was a normal hotel, all we’d have for a fridge would be a mini-bar.”
Raman, Yuvraj and Mannat will stay at Ronald McDonald House over the summer as Yuvraj completes treatment, while Yuvraj’s dad and grandparents split their time between Lethbridge and Calgary.
Aman flew back to England earlier in June. As for Jazz and Privthi, they are flying home to England on Canada Day.
And now that she’s seen how Ronald McDonald House is supporting her sister-in-law’s family, Jas plans to help spread the word.
“There are times when I’ve gone into the kitchen at 1 a.m. and come across parents who are just coming back from the hospital. The families here have so much going on. To just dump your change in a box when you’re in McDonald’s, it’s a simple thing to do.”
“That support gives so much to the families who need this House.”