UZIT at Ronald McDonald House

By Lori Bower and Marcia Miller

IMG_0814Meet Mary (not her real name), a past resident of the Ronald McDonald House.  She was staying there to support her critically ill grandson, her daughter and her other two grandbabies.  Her young grandson had been a patient at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, for several months. Mary was visibly shaking, anxious, exhausted and so overwhelmed by her family’s situation that she was not sure she could continue to help. She had been trying to hold it together for her family but that day on a scale from 1 to 10 her stress was “off the charts.” We were in an Urban Zen Integrative Therapy session together.  First, I listened in order to gauge her needs, and then I made a plan. I offered her an essential oil and put her in a restorative pose called legs-up-the wall to address her exhaustion. I gave her reiki, a breath awareness practice and a body awareness meditation. Mary began to calm down and her shaking subsided. Toward the end of our session she began to cry and said she had never had the chance to cry. She had been so focused on taking care of everyone else she had forgotten what it felt like to be taken care of. She looked relaxed and was even smiling when we finished our time together. Mary was surprised and delighted to experience what a difference 20 minutes had made in the way she felt and at that point she was refreshed and ready to go back to the hospital to help her family in whatever way they needed.

This is the UZIT work we do at The Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. The Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home for families of seriously ill children being treated at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and other area hospitals. The Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio is the largest in the world serving more than 4,500 families each year by providing over 35,000 nights at the House.  Since January 2017 there have been 8 UZITs offering Urban Zen to families, patients and staff members. Here is what one staff member said:

“The Columbus Ronald McDonald House is beyond grateful to have the support of Urban Zen for our families. What’s so special is that they also support our staff. Attending an Urban Zen session helps me to relieve my compassion fatigue and allows me to regain focus so that I can be a better coworker and sense of support to the families we serve.”

Here is another of the many stories we have to tell……

A young boy with cancer and his mother were both visibly anxious. I could feel the sadness as I began to listen to their story; bearing witness to this family was an honor for me. I offered the mom lavender essential oil, as that was one of her favorite smells. I put them in our most nurturing pose--side-lying child’s pose facing each other. The mother wrapped her arms around the bolster I placed at the front of her body holding on tightly at first. I used a soft teddy bear as a prop for the young boy, which he gently caressed. As I cradled his head to offer reiki I could feel his head melt into my hands. He looked up at me and, as our eyes met, I could actually feel his sense of relief. They rested in that position as I offered them a guided meditation. Later, as they rolled up from the pose, both looking more relaxed and less stressed, the young boy said in a soft voice, “This was fun.” His mom smiled.  Later she wrote,

“My son and I are so thankful for our experience with Urban Zen. Not only did Lori spend time listening to our needs but then tailored an amazing experience to those needs. She was kind and patient! We are so thankful for our experience with Urban Zen!”