Seventeen-year-old Rachel Ragone sifted through the pages of her calculus book while snuggling up to her mother, Kim, their bodies sinking into the soft turquoise couch. It was their first time inside the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island’s new family room in the pediatric unit of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.
The 1,000-square-foot space — equipped with bathroom, living and dining areas — provides many of the comforts and conveniences of home for families with hospitalized children.
Ragone, who will be a senior this fall at Eastport-South Manor High School, was diagnosed in March with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of pediatric cancer of the bone, and has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the hospital since then.
A grand opening for the family room was held on Thursday, but it doesn’t officially open until next week.
The turquoise, white and green walls reminded Ragone of her own bedroom.
“It’s almost like being at home,” said Ragone, of Manorville. “There are snacks, chocolate, fruit and drinks. I can use the computer if I need to do homework. It’ll be better to study here than in bed.”
The room will have a fully-stocked kitchen, dining area and table set, a lounge area with a flat-screen TV, computer desk and couch, a bathroom with multiple lockers and a washer and dryer. It will be staffed from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Families will have access to shuttle service.
Manhattan-based interior designer Tony Baratta said he envisioned the space to be a happy, peaceful place that’s simple, but colorful. He was going for a cool, modern vibe.
“I wanted these families to get away and not have to think about the difficult task of looking after their sick child,” Baratta said. “A hospital can be an overwhelming place, so this allows them to shut the door, cozy up on the couch, eat some snacks and gather themselves so they can be strong for their kid.”
The space mirrors the look of the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island in New Hyde Park, which has been a home-away-from-home for thousands of families in the United States and globally dealing with children undergoing medical treatment at nearby hospitals.
“Families will be able to connect with others in the same situation, share their experiences and take a break from the hospital atmosphere,” said Kate Hunt-Rotolo, of the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island’s board of directors and chairwoman of its family room committee. “They need a place like this, especially if they’re here living at their child’s bedside for sometimes two weeks at a time.”
As Kim Ragone and her daughter headed back to the room, they took one last look at the space, excited to spend their time there at their next two-week hospital stay.
“This is an amazing place,” Ragone said. “I never expected a room to look so welcoming and relaxing. Our families and other families appreciate this so much.”