From Maryland to Indiana: How Rhonda Aikens Found Home

On November 24, 2021, just one day before she would have been celebrating Thanksgiving with her family, Rhonda Aikens got the news that her grandson, Dejon, had been shot in the head. The 21-year-old had to be airlifted to the University of Chicago where they performed emergency surgery to remove a part of his skull to reduce swelling.

Even though the emergency treatment Dejon received at the University of Chicago was successful, the family’s worries continued. It was clear he would need continued care for the trauma the injury caused. The only place that offered extensive physical therapy for traumatic brain injuries like Dejon’s was in Indianapolis.

Dejon and family smile for the camera

Dejon and his family at the House.

Rhonda wanted to be by Dejon’s side and there to support her daughter. But the chance for her to be close to her grandson while he was going through physical therapy seemed impossible since she lives in Elkton Maryland. When all hope seemed lost, she was told about Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana and shown how to apply to stay. Soon, she was moving into a room at the House where she would find a community to support her and her family as they worked through the long healing process with Dejon.

“It was so loving and took a lot of pressure off of me and my daughter, just everything you need is here,” said Rhonda describing her first impression of the House. While living in the House the family still faced many challenges but felt the support of the staff and volunteers around them through it all.

Dejon and his mother Angela, smiling for the camera

Dejon, and his mother Angela.

The family was grateful to find support from other families living in the House that also were going through similar struggles. Rhonda was able to sit and talk with the families she met and celebrate with those families when they were able bring their children back home.

“That’s my interpretation of the Ronald McDonald House, they are loving and have everything you need,” explained Rhonda.

She feels lucky to have the chance to see first-hand the progress in her grandson’s recovery “I encourage everyone to keep on giving. Staying at RMH takes a little of the pressure off, because trying to figure out how you’re going to handle your finances, plus trying to deal with all you’re going through is a lot,” Rhonda said after witnessing firsthand the impact donations can have on family.

Ronda hopes to give back to RMHCCIN after she leaves the House by donating her time as a volunteer and spreading the word about how those in her hometown can donate as well. “Through all of our challenges Ronald McDonald House stood by us and supported us.”

By Jessica Norton