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New Ronald McDonald House opens at Parkview Regional Medical Center

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - 7:12 am

In a fraction of a second Joel Price's life changed.

Nine years ago, Price, then 13, was riding a jet boat at Lake James when a speedboat pulled out full throttle from the shore. The front hull of the boat was lifted out of the water as the driver accelerated. He didn't see Price. The middle point of the bow smashed into Price's head. The blow opened his skull, exposing his brain. He went underwater and the propeller of the boat also struck him across the brow; his left leg was so severely damaged that only a tendon connected it to his body.

Thirty yards away, fishing by the shore was a paramedic from Three Rivers Ambulance Authority. Within 30 seconds he was by Price and he and his two fishing friends hauled Price to the beach where the paramedic's gear was. The next person to show up on the beach was a respiratory therapist who had just moved to the area.

“And the miracles just continued from there,” said Paul Copeland, Price's stepfather.

Price was flown by Life Flight helicopter to Parkview Randallia. There he went through multiple brain surgeries and his leg was amputated.

Through intensive therapy over time he has recovered. He has a slight limp now, but his speech is clear, and to look at him you wouldn't know what he has been through. Four to five days before his release from the hospital the Ronald McDonald House was having a fundraiser. Price had recovered enough that he got up and told his story, and he was asked to come back the next year to share it again.

Shery and Paul Copeland live in Angola, so having the Ronald McDonald House at Parkview, which provides a place to say for families of children who are patients, allowed one of them to be with Price around the clock until his release.

“That would not have happened without the Ronald McDonald House,” Paul Copeland said.

Tuesday morning Parkview Regional Medical Center had its official opening of the new Ronald McDonald House, and Price and his stepfather were there to express their gratitude and tell their story.

The new house is open after five years of planning and $2 million of fund raising.

The first floor has 11 bedrooms and 9,000 square feet of space, triple the 2,800 square feet at Parkview Randallia. The house also features a large gathering room, a family-style dining room, a computer area, and laundry room. There will be light snacks for the guests and an evening meal served daily.

“This day really was a long time in coming," said Lisa Pacula, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House. "There are so many people to thank. It took a lot of planning; it took a lot of hard work; and it took a lot of love to make this happen.”

Pacula told the crowd the house would be taking its first guests Tuesday afternoon.

Parents of patients up to 21 years of age can stay in the house, based on an assessment by the social service department at the hospital. The local Ronald McDonald Chapter partners with Parkview. According to the organization's website it has chapters worldwide. The nonprofit started 38 years ago.

Mike Packnett, president and CEO of Parkview Health; Jackie Meara, senior manager field relations, Ronald McDonald House; and Sue Ehinger, hospital president, all spoke and then turned the scissors over to, whom else? Ronald McDonald for the ribbon cutting.