Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwestern Ontario

It was very early April 26 2010. I was 31 weeks pregnant and couldn’t sleep. I was uncomfortable and kept having pains and thought that I had let myself become dehydrated. I didn’t wake my husband, I slipped out of bed waking him anyways and told him I was dehydrated and going to the hospital and to go back to bed. The hospital is two blocks from our home in a very small town. I went in and they did their routine checks and then everything changed.

The doctor told me that the baby was coming. We were both very aware how dangerous this was in a level 3 hospital that was not equipped for such an event and I was too far along to even go by ambulance in fear our baby would arrive en route to a larger hospital. They called the neonatal team from London and a few hours later our sweet daughter had arrived. Not breathing. The London team arrived right at her birth and worked on her to get her breathing. It was the scariest thing to be laying there helpless as your baby fights for life. The doctors and nurses were amazing and told me what to expect, including the fact that she would not look like or cry like a full term baby. They released me and my husband to go home and get some things and head down behind the ambulance. Imagine just giving birth and told to leave because she would need a lot of help. They just kept saying she was very sick and I didn’t understand what they meant. We got to London and she was already in the neonatal unit hooked up to a million wires. You could hardly see her little face. At this point she had left my body only 5 hours prior. I asked my husband to get a wheelchair and off we went in the biggest hospital I had ever seen and went through the wash up process to be able to enter the neonatal unit. I was told she had needed to be resuscitated. But I, in my mommy glow, was all smiles. The nurse commented “after all you have been through you are smiling ear to ear”. Of course I said, she is here isn’t she, she’s still alive!!”

Never could I imagine having a sick child that was alive who could make you beam like that but I had hope. Later that day we spoke to so many people doctors, nurses, then surgeons and at some point a social worker told us about the Ronald McDonald House that was across the street. We didn’t know much about it but it sounded great after the longest day of my life. They arranged everything and all we had to do was go over and fill out some papers. I would like to say it was the best sleep of my life but honestly I don’t remember! What I do remember was my infant daughter staying in the NICU for 3 months and we had a place to stay. We were welcome to bring our older children down so every weekend we could be together as a family. Our sweet girl suffered a brain bleed and needed 8 shunt revision surgeries before the age of two and every time I would call and they would find us a room to stay.

But the House is so much more. We had stayed during a few holidays at that time and they would always remember us! On Father’s Day she was still in hospital and they had little Father’s Day bibs that we took to the hospital with us. When she was healthy enough to stay at the House before an appointment or surgery they would give her quilts and gifts and make us feel so at home with very delicious dinners every night by some volunteers. We met some amazing people. That was such a humbling experience as our daughter was sick but there were others that may not have brought their babies home. The Ronald McDonald House became a sanctuary in kindness. The experience taught me so much about respect for everyone since you have no idea what someone might be going through. It seems so long ago she came into the world 9 weeks early and very sick and other times like right now as I write this it seems like only months ago. Ronald McDonald House will always be a part of our story.

- Jennifer

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