CHICAGO (CBS)–Nearly two dozen families already in a difficult situation are now facing another challenge, because the extreme shift in temperatures forced an emergency situation at the Hyde Park Ronald McDonald House. The rapid warm-up was welcomed by millions of people around the region, but the drastic temperature change following the Polar Vortex caused a pipe to rupture, flooding many parts of the building.

“I would describe it like being in the Titanic, trying to navigate the hallways and get us and our stuff out,” said Kayla Ybanez, who was staying in the Ronald McDonald House while her daughter is treated for a mysterious illness at nearby Comer Children’s Hospital.

The ruptured pipe left two feet of standing water in the basement, and heavily damaged guest rooms and living spaces on all three floors of the facility.

Ybanez, who lives in Tinley Park, describes the Ronald McDonald House as a lifesaver that helps keep her family going.

“Something happened to her immune system and it shut down so she can’t fight infections—she can’t go outside like a regular kid because if she gets in contact with someone who’s sick it can be deadly for her,” Ybanez said.

Ronald McDonald House Charities spokesperson Holly Buckendahl said parents depend on the housing facility to keep them near their loved ones during their hospital stays.

“They depend on us to be steps away from the hospital and to take the worry out of the burden a childhood illness can create,” Buckendahl said.

The displaced families are now staying in a nearby hotel, but it will be several months before the house is usable again.

Officials with Ronald McDonald House Charities are asking for donations to help defray the unexpected costs for the repairs.

Despite the extent of the water damage, however, no one with a sick child will be turned away.

“We have families that will be checking in today,” Buckendahl said. “We have new referrals every day. Childhood illness continues, and these families need to stay close to their kids when they’re fighting for their lives and families are trying to hold it together. We want to continue to be part of their solution.”

If you would like to make a donation, you can do so at, or if you want to you can drop off items at the Ronald McDonald House, at 55th and Drexel in Hyde Park between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Mike Puccinelli