Counting Our Blessings

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Published: Oct 09, 2018

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The Cookus-Gnoinski Family Story


Abbey was excited to ring our good news bell when she went home!

Ten-year-old Abbey Cookus-Gnoinski had her eighth surgery in May, and spent her summer at the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware while completing an intensive Physical Therapy Schedule before she started sixth grade this fall. She was born with Diastrophic Dysplasia, a type of dwarfism that affects joints and bones due to a lack of cartilage. As a result, Abbey’s bones constantly grind against one another, causing chronic pain and mobility challenges.

With her crutches and her smile, Abbey calmly, and matter-of-factly explained her disorder like a professional, and then went on to explain how her condition has made her a little different, but a lot stronger. “I’m always the shortest in my class and I can’t always participate at recess, but this has taught me to be patient and to work hard for what I want to achieve.”

Abbey and her mom Cheryl spent the summer with us during their intensive physical therapy schedule. Cheryl shared that she noticed that Abbey is more mature, understanding, and tolerant of others than she otherwise would have been without her challenging journey. “Abbey is ten, and of course, like any other kid, she wants to be home playing with her friends during the summer, but we are here, and Abbey is working so hard and making the most of this opportunity.”

Abbey and Maddy

Abbey and Maddy became fast friends at RMHDE.

Abbey makes friends easily with her warm smile and contagious laughter. Over the summer, she became close with another girl at the house, Maddy, and when both girls’ therapy schedules aligned, they enjoyed listening to music together and making crafts.

Music is a passion for Abbey. Recently, she performed a Whitney Houston song in a vocal competition, starred in the musical “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown”, and danced the night away with her best friend and her twin sister at a Taylor Swift Concert. Abbey’s face lit up when reminiscing on the highlights of the past year, and explained, “I just love being on stage.”

Abbey and her mom come to the Ronald McDonald House whenever Abbey undergoes surgery, so they have become experts at making the trip to RMHDE. “Without the Ronald McDonald House, I’d go insane,” Cheryl explained. With their family living in Wilks-Berre Pennsylvania, the daily drive between home and the hospital would be impossible for the, “It would be financially draining. Food and lodging and transportation bills would add up. And living in a hotel would mean that Abbey and I have essentially no social interaction,” Cheryl says, “The interactions and relationships with other families at the House keep us going. Without the House, we couldn’t do therapy for as long as we have, and that would affect Abbey’s progress because there are no doctors that specialize in her condition at home. Living at the House makes us feel lucky and count our blessings.”

The Cookus-Gnoinski family loves one another fiercely, and values spending quality time with one another, something that the Ronald McDonald House continues to allow them to do, even during stressful times.



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