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Burst pipe at Ronald McDonald House in Chicago displaces families after polar vortex

Elyssa Cherney, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Weather News

CHICAGO -- For the past year, Kayla Ybanez and her family have lived at a Ronald McDonald House on Chicago's South Side while Ybanez's 4-year-old daughter undergoes treatment for her immune system at nearby Comer Children's Hospital.

Ybanez, who is from Tinley Park, Ill., said it's been a relief to stay closer to her daughter and to have a place to do laundry, get free meals and converse with other families grappling with the challenges of having a sick child.

But early Friday morning, a pipe burst in a bathroom on the home's third floor, causing permanent water damage that required Ybanez, who also has a 6-year-old son, and the six other families staying there to be relocated to a nearby hotel. Ybanez said she awoke to a fire alarm and hurriedly gathered her belongings once she realized what was going on.

"There was water coming through the ceiling, through the lights," said Ybanez, 28. "It went from a drip to a consistent run."

Since the hotel is about half a mile from the hospital, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana is helping families with Uber and Lyft rides, according to Chief Operating Officer Holly Buckendahl. It will take two to three months to repair the home, so the organization is seeking donations to provide the families with food, transportation and other costs during their stay at the hotel.

"Right now, we're just trying to get this house dry," Buckendahl said. "As that happens, we will start ripping out drywall, ceilings, flooring. All the appliances have to be replaced in the kitchen areas and the laundry room. There is significant mechanical damage to all of that stuff."

On Sunday night, long inflatable tubes blasted air through the house and were hooked up to a large truck in an alley. Fans were running in rooms to help dry the debris.

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Ybanez said it was a stressful couple of hours Friday gathering her belongings, but she was happy that nothing was destroyed. Her husband was sleeping at the hospital with 4-year-old Theresa, who recently had a bone marrow transplant.

"It is really sad to see a disruption in that community," she said, "so we are looking forward to when things are getting back to normal."

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