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The Wassells

On November 29, 2018 my husband, Brad, and I were excited and nervous as we drove to our anatomy scan appointment to get a closer look at our identical twin daughters. The pregnancy had been uneventful so far and, with each girl having her own amniotic sac and placenta, we had the best case scenario for a twin pregnancy. Or so we thought. It was at that appointment that we learned I was already dilated to one centimeter at 23 weeks pregnant. In that moment everything changed. I was taken by ambulance from Passavant Hospital in Jacksonville to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield. Within minutes of arriving, I was started on medication to help slow labor and given steroid shots to help my babies grow stronger because a premature delivery was now imminent. Luckily the girls were not delivered that night, but I was told I would spend the rest of my pregnancy on hospital bed rest at St. John’s and that we would most likely have a lengthy NICU stay. We live an hour west of Springfield, so the thought of travel added to our many worries.

To help ease our fears during the two weeks I spent on bed rest, the nurses frequently mentioned the Ronald McDonald House and the amenities it would be able to provide us after the girls were born — a free place to stay nearby that included meals and a community to support us on our journey. As fate would have it, there was another family from our town staying at RMH after also having premature twins. They confirmed everything the nurses had been telling us.

Hannah and Sadie spent 88 days in the NICU, which meant Mom and Dad spent 88 days at the Ronald McDonald House.

Hannah at one month.

Hannah and Sadie spent 88 days in the NICU, which meant Mom and Dad spent 88 days at the Ronald McDonald House.

Sadie at one month.

Our daughters Hannah and Sadie were born in the early morning of Friday, December 14 at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound 12 ounces and 1 pound 10 ounces.

The Wassells on New Year's Eve

Our daughters Hannah and Sadie were born in the early morning of Friday, December 14 at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound 12 ounces and 1 pound 10 ounces. We were advised by the neonatology team to plan on a NICU stay until our due date of March 29. That afternoon we filled out the RMH paperwork and the next morning my husband went across the street to get the room that would become our home for the next three months. As hard as it was to leave the hospital without our girls and without knowing what the coming weeks would bring, it was reassuring to know we would be sleeping across the street and could be at the hospital quickly if something were to go wrong. We wouldn’t even have to drive because there was a free shuttle to the hospital offered 24 hours a day. Thankfully, our prayers were answered many times over, and both girls had uneventful NICU stays. They simply needed to grow to get strong enough to go home. We were discharged two weeks before our due date.

As hard as it was to leave the hospital without our girls and without knowing what the coming weeks would bring, it was reassuring to know we would be sleeping across the street and could be at the hospital quickly if something were to go wrong.

Hannah giving a fist bump.

Hannah and Sadie spent 88 days in the NICU, which meant Mom and Dad spent 88 days at the Ronald McDonald House. It made a terrible situation tolerable and allowed us to focus our energies where they needed to be-with our girls. There was no driving back and forth when your mind was so clouded with other thoughts you couldn’t see straight. There was a hot meal provided every night and always leftovers when you were panicked about money and the hospital bills you knew were coming. There was always another family there who could relate to you, whether you wanted to talk about it or keep to yourself. And there was always an employee checking in to see how YOU were doing and what YOU needed.  The day we checked out of the NICU and RMH was bittersweet. As excited and ready as we were to finally move back home, we were leaving behind a new family of sorts we are forever indebted to.

I am  happy to report that Hannah and Sadie are thriving. They are meeting or are ahead all of their adjusted milestones. We are hopeful that there are no more hospital stays in our future, but it is comforting to know that we are welcome to stay at RMH if necessary.

Hannah and Saide are thriving, and we are hopeful that there are no more hospital stays in our future, but it is comforting to know that we are welcome to stay at Ronald McDonald House if necessary.

Hannah and Sadie are thriving today (10 months).

The Ellis Family

The Ellis Family, with twins in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at HSHS St. John's Children's Hospital.

The Ellis Family, with twins in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at HSHS St. John's Children's Hospital.

After a very complicated obstetric history and subsequent losses our twins decided it was time to arrive, despite being 2 months early. Having experienced previous preterm complications, we knew what we were up against.

With over six months of bedrest that had resulted in severe muscle atrophy coupled with one twin delivering and the other twin being a c-section, I found normal daily activities such as standing for a short period of time and walking to be exhausting. It would have been impossible for me to commute 2 hours round trip to visit our babies we had longed for over many years. The nurses suggested we contact the Ronald McDonald House®, which was a true blessing.

Out of all of our trials, it was so comforting to know one thing we would not have to worry about was where we were going to stay while our daughters were in the hospital. We found the Ronald McDonald House to be one form of constant comfort in a time we felt so emotionally vulnerable due to our daughters being premature. It is extremely difficult to enter the hospital with babies and leave empty armed, a feeling we knew all too well from previous complications. But this time we had hope we would eventually leave with both our arms and hearts full. This feeling of emptiness we had felt before was fulfilled by the comfort the Ronald McDonald House offered from many different perspectives. Continue reading

LaDage Family

In 2011, the last day of school, Darla and Todd LaDage took four-year-old Carson to the doctor because he had been showing some minor neurological symptoms. He was limping off and on and stuttering on occasion. The doctor ordered an MRI, which showed Carson had a brain tumor in the brainstem.

Just days after finding the tumor, Carson’s doctors performed brain surgery.

The surgery didn’t quite go as planned. Instead of removing the entire tumor, the doctors could only do a biopsy to explore the tumor more. They gave Carson about a week to recover before putting in a port and starting chemotherapy. The chemotherapy continued for a year. Traditionally, that is where the story would end as the type of tumor Carson has typically only requires one year of treatment. Carson’s was still growing.

Keeping Carson & Darla close to the care and resources they need

Carson was sent to Memphis for radiation treatment. This was the first time they experienced the Ronald McDonald House® (RMH) and realized the value of what the House offers families like theirs.

Carson and Darla lived at Memphis RMH for nine weeks while he received treatments. Carson’s dad Todd, sister Emma and brother Riley would all come to visit during this time –they were thankful the Ronald McDonald House was able to accommodate their family. Darla was also able to bond with other families going through similar situations while she was at the RMH.

“The friendships you make at RMH are different,” shares Darla. “When you meet people who really are going through the exact same thing, the bond is instantaneous. One of my closest friends now is someone that we lived with in 2012 at RMH. We joke that our friendship is built on butter because we started talking in the community kitchen when she asked to borrow a stick of butter. This friendship and having that community where everybody does understand, it really does help you survive it.” Continue reading

The Simmons Family

Pictured are Christine and Adam Simmons with their daughter Harper and a photo of their son Bowden. The Simmons Family are RMHCCI Ambassadors & Spokespersons for the Peoria House Build.

In February 2016, while living in the suburbs of Chicago, life seemed perfect for the Simmons family. They had two beautiful babies – Harper (their 1 ½ year old sassy baby girl) and Bowden (their sweet son who was only three months old). Then Bowden started having some common cold symptoms that sent them back and forth to the pediatrician. Over the course of 4 days, things turned progressively worse. When they noticed that his breathing was becoming more labored, their pediatrician recommended they take Bowden to the ER. From there, they were quickly transferred to Lurie Children’s Hospital in downtown Chicago.

Kindness Always, Even in the Toughest Journeys

Bowden was diagnosed with a very rare autoimmune disorder called Hemophagocytic Lympho Histiocytosis, also known as HLH. A quick way of explaining HLH is that it’s an overactive immune disorder where your white blood cells overreact to illnesses. They don’t stop at attacking the virus – they go after your organs and everything else, too. Since HLH is treated like cancer, Bowden was immediately started on a regimen of chemotherapy and high dose steroids. The Simmons also moved into the Ronald McDonald House at Lurie’s, just three blocks away from the hospital so they could stay close to Bowden and the care he needed.

About 4 months into treatment, while Bowden was preparing for a Bone Marrow Transplant, the Simmons were dealt more crushing news. Bowden also had Acute Myeloid Leukemia. At the time, Bowden was the only case in the world to have both HLH and Leukemia. It also meant that the Bone Marrow Transplant couldn’t be done at that time. They had to start treatment over. He responded beautifully again – even earning himself a stay with his family at the Ronald McDonald House. They went to Navy Pier, got his caricature done, and then that night… he spiked a fever. They were back in the ER by 7 am the next morning to learn that Bowden had a virus and he was readmitted. Shortly after being readmitted as a patient, Bowden relapsed, and another aggressive regimen was started, yet his condition continued to get worse. In the early morning hours of August 8, 2016, Bowden passed away with Adam and Christine by his side.

Keeping Our Family Close

Throughout Bowden’s 6-month fight, and Adam and Christine’s fight to save him, they lived at the Ronald McDonald House in Lurie. This not only got them off the chair and couch in the hospital room, but they were able to stay close to Bowden and spend time with their young daughter Harper who had been staying in Peoria, IL with family.

“One of the hardest things about being in the hospital those four months was being away from Harper,” says Adam. “She was and still is the apple of my eye – as was Bowden – but, being separated from her at a young age, it crushed both of us. Her godparents would bring her up every week to the House – even if it was just a couple hours.”

Continue reading

The Diebal Family

Pictured are Jamie and Craig, with Allison and Jillian doing well at 16 weeks in August of 2017.

Our 2017 Winter Mailer features to story of Jamie and Craig and their stay at the House when their twin daughters were born prematurely. Below is Jamie's story in her own words.

In the early morning hours of May 1, 2017, our world completely changed. I was only 27 weeks along in my pregnancy with twin girls, when my water broke. My husband and I arrived at the hospital in Springfield, fearing the worst. Two days later, our girls were born on May 3, 2017. They were so tiny with Allison weighing 2 pounds 3 ounces and Jillian weighing 2 pounds 9 ounces. Both girls spent over 50 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The evening I was released from the hospital we went directly over to the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Springfield where we were greeted and quickly checked in. From the moment we walked in the door everyone was so helpful and supportive.
Continue reading

Meet Henry

During a challenging time, MaryBeth was able to focus on what was most urgent- her son, having a warm bed, hot meals and a comforting environment to return to.When MaryBeth arrived at the hospital last summer due to complications with her pregnancy, she did not know the lengthy ordeal she was beginning. MaryBeth’s daughter, MaryKate, and her son, Henry, were both born premature shortly after her arrival. MaryBeth learned that the twins would need to remain in the NICU for several months. Due to her children’s medical needs, she and her family could stay at the Ronald McDonald House for as long as needed, at absolutely no cost.MaryBeth was relieved she had a safe and comfortable place to stay that was just across the street from the hospital.

MaryBeth stayed at the House for over four months. Sadly, MaryKate passed away but her brother Henry’s care continued. She was relieved she had a safe and comfortable place to stay that was just across the street from the hospital. During a challenging time, MaryBeth was able to focus on what was most urgent- her son, having a warm bed, hot meals and a comforting environment to return to.

Mary Beth explains, “Ronald McDonald House is someplace that you do not think about until you or someone you know has benefited from it. The generous donations that enabled me to stay 116 days of Henry’s 120 day NICU stay are phenomenal! Those donations allowed me to be with my son every day throughout his care; our family will never be able to aptly show our gratitude to the supporters of the Ronald McDonald House! Continue reading

Meet Wynter & Her Family

Wynter was born 16 weeks early on November 27, 2015. She weighed only 14 ounces – not even one pound! Wynter was born 16 weeks early on November 27, 2015. She weighed only 14 ounces - not even one pound!

Beginning last December, her mom, Sara, stayed at our Ronald McDonald House while Wynter received care at St. John’s Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). From time to time, her grandma, Teresa, and sisters, Autumn and Summer, would also stay at the House while Wynter was growing big and strong in the NICU.

After almost eight months, Wynter finally went home on July 20, 2016 (pictured here). Because of your support, her family was able to stay at the House free of charge for the entire eight month period. Her mom, Sara, had this to say:

“The Ronald McDonald House has meant so much to my family. They have become a part of our family. Throughout the ups and downs of having a preemie, they were there to support us and offer encouragement, always asking how Wynter was doing and if we needed anything. We can’t ever say thank you enough for allowing us to stay by Wynter while she was receiving the care she needed. It was such a scary time, but the House made it all so much more bearable.”The Ronald McDonald House has meant so much to my family. They have become a part of our family. Throughout the ups and downs of having a preemie, they were there to support us and offer encouragement, always asking how Wynter was doing and if we needed anything.

There’s more to Wynter’s family’s story! Her cousin, Freya, was born 16 weeks early as well on August 13, 2016. Now Freya’s mom and dad, Jennifer and Matt, are staying at the Ronald McDonald
House while Freya takes her turn at growing big and strong in the NICU (pictured to the right).

For this family, the Ronald McDonald House has truly become their home away from home while their little loved ones receive the best medical care possible. Because of your support, Wynter’s family has been able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House for over 350 nights at no cost to them. This winter, please help us continue to keep families like Wynter’s close. Your gift will enable us to provide family-centered care that babies need to be healthy and strong.

Summer Newsletter: Meet Carly

20160316_193342The following was published in our Summer 2016 Newsletter, from Carly:

Hi Friends -

When I was diagnosed with T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma on November 15, 2015, it was scary. My family and I live in Saybrook, Illinois, so we had to travel to Springfield for the best care I could receive.  The week of my diagnosis, my mom, dad and aunt took turns staying with me and at the Ronald McDonald House. I was so glad they were able to stay close by while I was in the
hospital.

I'm still receiving treatment and it is nice for my mom to be able to stay at the House while we're in town. My mom says the staffis very friendly and makes our family feel at home. She also said it was easy to be able to do laundry and grab something to eat at the House whenever she wanted during my hospital stay. While I'm at the hospital, I sometimes see the Ronald McDonald House
Happy Wheels Cart! The Happy Wheels Cart ladies know I love the stuffed animals, so they always have some special ones for me to pick out. Even Ronald McDonald stops by with the cart to visit!

My school, Ridgeview Elementary, has been collecting pop tabs to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House in my honor. Mom and I drop them off at the House when we come to town for my treatments. We've collected over 85 pounds since November!

It’s comforting to know my family can stay close to me while I receive care for my cancer, and it’s all because of your support. Thank you - seeing my family makes me really happy.

Carly

The Barclay Family

 I could not bear to think how much worse it would have been without the comfort of the Ronald McDonald House.

Read about the Barclay Family, from Glennette Barclay:

In August, our son, Luke, 17, was involved in an accidental explosion. He experienced second and third degree burns over 65 percent of his body, requiring seven skin grafting surgeries and a three month stay at Memorial Medical Center’s Regional Burn Unit. As a mom, the experience has been overwhelming. My husband and I have felt completely helpless, watching our son be in excruciating pain and struggle every day to recover with nothing we could do to make him feel better. Our journey has been physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting – and truly traumatic. I could not bear to think how much worse it would have been without the comfort of the Ronald McDonald House.

For the first two weeks after Luke’s accident, we stayed at the hospital because Luke was so critical and we didn’t want to leave his side. Once he was stable, we learned about the Ronald McDonald House. When we were shown our room, I started to cry. The amount of relief I felt was indescribable. We had a place to put our stuff, our own bathroom, and the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. It seems small, but having an actual bed during this difficult time was such a huge comfort and it made all the difference for us.

We still have a long road ahead of us, but the support we have received from the Ronald McDonald House, its staff and volunteers has been incredible. Without the House, I would not have been able to cope with our situation, not to mention been able to afford it. No one plans for their child to experience a severe burn accident and have the closest burn unit be two hours away from home. Thankfully, Ronald McDonald House helped us absorb a part of our critical needs during the worst unexpected experience of our lives. We could not be more grateful, and we plan to pay it forward for all that the House has done for us.

Pictured above are James, Luke, Tiffiney and Glennette Barclay, prior to Luke's accident.

The Frankovich Family

The Frankovich FamilyThe Frankovich Family came to RMHCCI last year when baby Allison was born with a prolapsed cord, which cut off all the blood supply and oxygen to her body. While at St. John’s Children’s Hospital, she had a stroke which caused further damage. Doctors thought Allison might not be able to swallow food and they suspected she might have Cerebral Palsy, but Allison made a full recovery and just celebrated her first birthday.

After their stay at our House, the Frankovich Family decided that if Allison could live to see her first birthday in good health, they would have a birthday party where guests would bring gifts to donate to our Ronald McDonald House! Needless to say, the results were amazing (as shown here)! Party attenders and several other members of the Decatur community pitched in to give toys, cleaning supplies, food, bed linens, hangers, personal care items and much more to our House for our families to use, as well as $1,800!

The Frankovich’s caught the attention of local news station, WAND, too! Their story was featured on the news that evening, and because of that, even more donations were brought by our House! Allison and her mom, Janice, are pictured above on the day they dropped off all of the items.

We are truly grateful to them for their support and we are so happy that “Big Al” is doing so well!

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