Heart to Heart, Family to Family

Heart to Heart, Family to Family

boy in hospital bed with machines and holding gameLindsey Allgeier is 6-year-old Jonah’s mother. She’s also his homeschooling teacher, his medical caregiver, and now his heart-warrior-role-model, guiding him through an experience she thought would be once in a lifetime.

“It’s unreal to go through this not once, but twice,” shares Lindsey. “It’s overwhelming – knowing what to expect, what I went through, knowing what he will go through.”

In 2001, after three years suffering from restrictive cardiomyopathy, Lindsey received a new heart.

Fast forward to 2024.

Jonah, like his mother 23 years earlier, is waiting for a heart transplant to save his life.

woman sitting on hospital bed smiling. children's blankets and colorful accents in room

Many things have changed, some have not. “I was a teenager, Jonah’s only six. My family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House while I was waiting, in this very hospital. One of my nurses—it was her first year as a transplant nurse—is still here,” shares Lindsey.

Lindsey shows Family Room Manager Erin Goldsmith photos from her phone.

There was a big sign welcoming me back to the House when I was able to join them after my transplant.

Family of eight, five teens/adults and three children, in front of Ronald McDonald House registration desk with welcome back sign

At that time, however, there was no Ronald McDonald Family Room in the hospital.  “As a parent, I can’t imagine not having this room just steps away from Jonah. I use it all the time. I can wash his pajamas and blankets, grab a lunch, sometimes just sit and cry with the staff or other moms.”

Lindsey and JonahFor families with hospitalized children, days can feel never-ending. Caring for yourself while caring for a child often gets overlooked.

“I don’t like to leave Jonah alone for long,” says Lindsey, “but we both really need a break sometimes.”

It’s why in 2006 RMHC Northeast Ohio began opening hospital-based Ronald McDonald Family Room programs, providing a place for families to recharge just steps from their child’s bedside. Services in the rooms have continued to expand to meet needs, including providing fresh meals regularly to help keep families strong.

For Jonah’s little brother, two-year-old Isaiah, the Family Room offers a place to play and special moments during visits to the hospital. “Isaiah loved meeting the princesses,” shares Erin.

Lindsey and Erin smile as they recount other treats, activities, and “time-outs” shared with other families. “It’s hard spending the holidays in the hospital, but all the volunteers, staff, donors — everyone tried to make it easier for us,” Lindsey adds.

The donations of toys and gifts – people don’t realize the impact that makes. Being away from home, the boys don’t have all their toys and stuffies here. It’s like a spark of hope when I can bring them something new.

Jonah’s restrictive cardiomyopathy, unlike what Lindsey experienced, has come with heart rhythm issues that can be life-threatening. “He is always on a monitor and can’t leave his hospital floor. He can’t be active like he’s used to because his heart rate can’t go high. I can count on taking him a different little toy or treat to break up the monotony. I also use them as rewards for schoolwork.”

Lindsey, her husband Adam, and Isaiah are making their home in Cleveland within walking distance of the hospital while they wait for Jonah’s gift of life.

“Adam and I take shifts here at the hospital and he goes back and forth to keep our business going. Family comes to stay and support us.”

Jonah’s wait in the hospital could be a year or longer. Even though he is the highest priority for a transplant, there are few pediatric heart donors.

As a heart recipient and mother, Lindsey understands both the agony of the wait and the pain of the donor’s family.

Donor's mother puts head on chest of heart recipient to listen to daughter's heart beat. Father stands in background“I know how precious the gift is. I’ve met the donor family—they lost their only daughter. I’ve held them while they listened to her heart beat in my chest.”

When asked what gets her through each day, Lindsey doesn’t hesitate at all. “My faith. The support of all those who care. Places and people like this. I’m so very grateful to all of you.”

Lindsey’s family found comfort and care through our programs in 2001 and again in 2024. While the ways we support families have evolved, one thing has not changed—RMHC Northeast Ohio continues to inspire hope, when and where families need it most.

You can help support families like Lindsey and Jonah’s.

Learn more about ways to help.