GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Barb and Joey Mahon are from Traverse City, but Joey,14, is currently receiving mental treatment at Forest View Hospital in Grand Rapids. But Mahon doesn't have to worry about making the drive of nearly three hours to see her son every day, because she's staying at the Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids.
It's a home away form home, serving families of sick children who are traveling to Grand Rapids for medical or mental treatment. Every day, around the clock, the Ronald McDonald House has room for 17 families.
Joey is struggling with schizophrenia.
"He’s going through hell," Mahon said. "He is seeing and hearing voices, and the voices are not nice, they’re trying to hurt him, kill him -- kill me."
Mahon says doctors are trying to find medication that will calm Joey's symptoms, but so far, nothing's working.
And so Joey, who loves fishing and basketball, is stuck in a hospital more than 100 miles away from home. Joey's two-week stay turned into eight weeks, so his mom turned to the Ronald McDonald for a place to stay.
"It’s a second home," Mahon said. "It actually makes me relax after I leave the hospital all day. I can come here the people are friendly and it’s so -- it's what I need."
Services director Megan Priester says the Ronald McDonald House is at full capacity providing transportation, food and lodging for 17 families so they can focus on their children.
"We really become that support system for them, especially with families like Barb who are several hours away from home," Priester said. "[Barb is] able to come here, relax, reflect, then go back to visiting hours be with her son and really help be a part of that coping and treatment and helping him to move forward."
Mahon says right now she doesn't have the money to go out to eat, but she can come "home" to the Ronald McDonald and have a nice dinner. "That's huge," she said.
What's even bigger, the importance of Joey's recovery. "As a mom, you always want to take care of your child."
If doctors can't figure out a treatment here in the Grand Rapids area soon, Joey and his mom might have to go to the University of Michigan for electric shock therapy, something that's extremely scary for both Joey and Barb.
Families stay at the Ronald McDonald House free of charge; the organization is funded through donations. To be eligible, the patient must be 21 years old or younger and the treatment must be 30 or more miles away from home.
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