The Montesano Family Story

When recent newlyweds Beth and Greg Montesano found out they were expecting a baby, they became ecstatic and eagerly awaited the 20-week ultrasound, which would inform them of their baby’s gender and general health. However, their appointment brought the Montesanos devastating news that their daughter was diagnosed with
spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when a baby’s spinal cord fails to develop properly and which can cause partial or complete paralysis along with other dysfunctions. They were immediately referred to the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

After a two-day evaluation revealed that Beth and their baby would need to undergo fetal surgery, they felt overwhelmed with the realization that a long journey was about to begin. The doctors advised them to stay within 30 minutes of the hospital at all times—requiring them to relocate from their home, which is over 60 miles away from the hospital. Beth would also have to be on bed rest for the majority of her pregnancy and would need Greg by her side in case of an emergency.

As they explored their scarce relocation options, including renting an apartment or staying with a host family in the city, a social worker at CHOP suggested the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, where they stayed during the remainder of Beth’s pregnancy. Beth said, “Even as a nurse, I never thought about needing to relocate for a medical necessity. It would have been so expensive and cost prohibitive.”

With four months left in Beth’s pregnancy, the Montesanos knew that they would have to take extensive time off of work. The couple even planned to spend the holidays at the House, so that they could stay close to the hospital. Beth said, “We had to come to terms with not being home over the holidays. It was hard that we weren’t doing our normal traditions with our families but the House staff definitely worked hard to bring the holiday spirit, so we enjoyed them. It was different but fun to spend them here.”

Fortunately, the Montesanos had many visitors during their time at the House, including their parents over Thanksgiving. Greg said, “Everyone who visited us was impressed by the House. People asked us what we needed and we told them that we didn’t need anything because they provided everything at the House. I don’t think anyone really understands until they see it for themselves but when they walk in, they are always touched to see all of the support that it provides and immediately realize how amazing it is. We feel very lucky to have stayed at the House.”

Besides providing many comforts for Beth and Greg, the House was essential to keeping both Beth and their baby, Emma Joyce, safe. One day, while staying at the House, Beth became dehydrated from being ill and needed to go to the hospital. “It was scary and I think that really made us realize how important it was to be so close to the hospital.This whole process would have been much more scary and difficult if we didn’t have the House,” Beth shared.

The Chestnut Street House is located less than a mile from CHOP, which reassured the Montesanos that if any issues arose, they would only be minutes away. Emma Joyce was born at the end of December and the Montesanos returned to their home to after the doctors released them. During their time at the House, they found mutual support with the numerous families whose children are facing life-changing medical difficulties, and Beth found courage and optimism through the other mothers who were faced with very similar conditions. “It was relaxing to talk to others who understand. We were so comfortable. We made some good friends while staying there. It was amazing to hear the other families’ stories, there are some incredible people that stay there,” Beth said. “The House really became like home.”