Charmain Mondarte is sitting in a quiet room, holding her 18-month-old daughter. Mondarte gave birth to her second child, a little boy, on February 1st. He was born several weeks premature and has been in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children's Memorial Hermann since then. Mondarte says the newly built Ronald McDonald House has offered a respite during a stressful time.
"Everybody's just so gracious and they really give of their time and they're happy to do it and they talk to us. So we really found a moral support group here, between the parents you know we just meet in the hall and the dining room. And you know, we keep each other up about our babies and we support each other."
The 14 rooms inside the hospital are free for parents who have children in the intensive care units. It's a place where a parent can spend the night to be close by or even just take a shower and a nap. Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital CEO Craig Cordola says they're also using the rooms to teach parents how to care for special needs babies.
"Those rooms are used for patients, for neo-nats that have been with us for a long time. Mom and baby get to spend the night here a couple nights and learn what it's like to be a mom with a neo-nat. The nurses and physicians very nearby, but it allows mom the opportunity to see what it's going to be like to take that child home for the first time."
Most of the services and care for the parents is provided by volunteers, right down to the homemade chocolate chip cookies waiting in the kitchen. Ronald McDonald House Hospital Programs Coordinator Matt Woodward.
"It's the mission of the Ronald McDonald House to provide a home away from home, and that's exactly what we've done when we've come in here. We did renovations as far as putting in some nice carpet, we've repainted, we redid the beds to try to make it look less institutionalized and more like a home."
The rooms at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital are the second such facility in Houston. There is a Ronald McDonald House inside Texas Children's Hospital and a full-service house located on Holcombe. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.