MEET OUR FAMILIES
The Menick Family - Agatha June
On Saturday May 21, 2016, at 29.6 weeks gestation, I went into labor. I had complete placenta previa so I was high risk anyway but our little girl decided she was ready before we were. She was born at Tanner Hospital in Villa Rica, GA at 7:03 pm via cesarean, weighed 3 pounds 11 ounces and was 16.5" long. While she was rather large for a premature baby of 29.6 weeks she still had some growing and maturing to do. She was transported two hours south to Columbus Regional Medical Center in Columbus, GA. Before she left, daddy got to touch her, and immediate family got to see her and she was whisked away. Daddy followed her to Columbus that night while I recuperated in the hospital in Villa Rica until Monday.
While at the NICU daddy was told about the Ronald McDonald House. I completed the paperwork and sent it back to see if we could get approval to stay. Good news came while we were en route to the hospital; we had a room waiting for us. This was a huge relief as we weren't sure what we were going to do for lodging but that didn't matter, we just wanted to be with our daughter. When we checked in, I could not walk and had to have a wheelchair. The House had one that we could use for the time being to transport me back and forth to the hospital. It took a day or so but I was on my feet again, walking very slowly.
The Tuesday and Thursday after she was born we got to kangaroo (hold our baby skin to skin). That Friday, May 27 (day 6) we were told she had an infection. By Sunday we were told she was in a "very, very critical state." We were brought into a meeting where we were told she might have meningitis, and that she had bleeding on her brain. At this stage it was just a waiting game. Her spinal tap came back that she didn't have meningitis. Over the next two weeks it was touch-and-go. She had close to doubled her weight in fluid, wasn't urinating properly and her liver wasn't cooperating. Not to mention her lungs had taken a hit because, as they found out, she had developed pneumonia and sepsis. She had trouble controlling her platelets, they had to keep having the Red Cross deliver them several times a day. She endured four blood transfusions. She had several xrays, scans, a few MRI's and a CT scan. They put her on several antibiotics, pain medicine, blood pressure medicine, medicine for her liver and kidneys, as well as medicine to reduce the fluid. At one point I believe she had six pumps and two IV's hooked up to give her medicine. They had moved her IV to her umbilical line and put in a PIC line.
On June 2 (day 12) we decided we needed to run home to Villa Rica and we stayed the night in our beds, the next morning we woke to drive back and received a call from the doctor. Her left lung had collapsed. We met with the doctor later in the day and he said he wasn't "surprised" or "disappointed" about her lung because she had air pockets she needed to get rid of. He also said her liver/kidneys had improved. Five days later we got the results of the ultrasound on her head. The doctor said the bleeding was diminishing.
I cannot begin to explain the emotional turmoil and pain we were in for two weeks. This was the hardest time in our lives thus far. We had each other to cling to, as well as a great support system back home. Even some came to visit. When they visited they were welcomed with open arms by the Ronald McDonald House. While staying at the House we utilized the den, watching movies and playing the video game. It helped to take our minds off what we were dealing with.
June 10 (day 20) she had lost 6 ounces of fluid! May not seem like much but it was a lot to us. They had stopped all her antibiotics, stopped the pain medicine, and cut both the blood pressure and fluid reduction medicines in half. The next day she was finally able to have milk again! The day after that, June 12 (day 22), both daddy and I decided we needed to go back to work so we could take time off when she was ready to come home. We talked to Beth at the House about it and she was more than happy to work with us to keep our room. So we decided daddy and I would rotate days and drive down after work at night and drive to work in the morning; we would both come down on weekends. And so commenced the driving. We both work in Douglasville, Georgia so we would have to get up two hours early to get to work in time. However, because we wanted to see our daughter before going to work we'd have to get up extra early so we didn't compete with shift change at the hospital. Some days it wasn't uncommon for us to get up at 4:45 am, after we'd gotten to bed around 11pm.
After three attempts to remove the vent tube they discovered her lungs were having an issue and they had to consult with Atlanta to see if she would need surgery. It was determined that she did not need surgery, they removed the vent tube the fourth and last time on June 30 (day 40) and put her on the cpap and she did great! It took awhile, she was on the cpap for 27 days. She was on the vapotherm machine for another seven days and moved to compressed oxygen from the wall. On July 31 (day 71) she was moved into a bassinet. Finally on August 8 we were able to nest with her and the machine she would go home with, and she got to go home on the 80th day!
We wouldn't have been able to be with our daughter as much as we were had it not been for the Ronald McDonald House. Not to mention all of the meals provided to us. Now we are home, having fun with our baby and ready to move on with our lives. Welcome to the world, Agatha June! You are a true fighter and survivor.
Rylie was born January 17, 2013 at West Georgia Medical Center in LaGrange, Georgia. She weighed 7 lbs. 3 ounces and was born full term. Unfortunately, she was also born with bleeding on the brain and hydrocephalus (fluid on thebrain.)She needed a neurosurgeon and our local hospital didn't have one.
Seven hours after she was born, a special ambulance from Columbus Regional was there to transport her to Columbus where a dedicated team of specialists were waiting. Unfortunately my OBGYN wouldn't discharge me yet, so my parents followed the ambulance to Columbus where they slept in chairs out in the waiting room.
I arrived at Rylie's side January 18th in the NICU where the head nurse Emily took good care of my parents and me. She told us about the Ronald McDonald House and made arrangements for us to stay.
Until everything happened with my daughter, I never truly knew that Ronald McDonald Houses existed! My parents and I arrived at the RMH later that day where we were greeted by Mrs. Beth and Mrs. Melody! We got a tour of the entire house and we were assigned rooms. The Ronald McDonald House wasn't just a house anymore; it became our home. We stayed there 3 weeks and we never once felt unloved or like we didn't matter. Every volunteer and person working there had such a huge caring heart. When my mother was too exhausted to drive me to the hospital for feeding time Mrs. Beth would drop me off and pick me back up, and her and Mrs. Melody always made sure I was eating and that we had everything we needed.
Rylie had 2 spinal taps done to have the fluid drained from her brain but that was only a temporary solution. She would need a shunt inserted to keep the fluid draining.
Rylie was discharged 3 weeks later. It was night time and we did not feel comfortable driving her home in the dark. We called Mrs. Beth and explained and she didn't think twice, she immediately said for us to bring that sweet baby to the House and y'all stay another night!
While I was getting Rylie discharged from the hospital, my mom was at the house panicking and trying to figure out where Rylie was going to sleep. She was emptying a dresser drawer and covering it in blankets when Mrs. Beth came to the rescue with a bassinet!
I was told by the doctors she needed to see her pediatrician when she got home. She was home for 3 days and her pediatrician sent her to see a neurosurgeon at Scottish Rite in Atlanta where she underwent her first surgery at 3 weeks old.
The people working at the House aren't strangers they become your family… It's very hard having to be away from your family and your home and friends but I was thankful and grateful for Beth and Mel because without their help and support, we would've been lost and sleeping in chairs and on the floor at the hospital!
We go back to visit the House as often as we can, we bring aluminum cans for the recycling program and other donations. Of course, Rylie has to make popcorn in the big red popcorn machine!
In our eyes, the Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home and in Rylie's eyes Mel and Beth are family. We love them and the house!! They do everything to make you feel comfortable and safe which is just the way “home” is supposed to be.
~ Ashley Thomas – LaGrange, GA
"The Ronald McDonald House opened their hearts, minds, and arms
when we were in need and far from home."
~ Mike and Michele Thompson
Michele and Michael Thompson came from Nebraska to adopt their sweet baby Asher. While Asher was born at term and did not have to stay in the NICU, he and his family had to remain in state, so our home became their home for 22 days.
"We came to the Ronald McDonald House strangers and helpless,
and left being family and feeling blessed."
~ The Pike Family
Coutrney Pike's parents came here after Courtney was transported to Midtown Medical Center ICU following a horrible car accident. She was not given a very high chance of surviving but proved conventional medicine wrong. Not only was HER health at stake, but she was also 21 weeks pregnant! Calvin Pike and Renee Morris stayed at our House for 93 days. Durint this time, Courtney healed enough to give birth to Wyatt Duke at 31 weeks. Once she gave birth, Courtney was transferred to Shepherd in Atlanta and her Mom remained here while Wyatt was in the NICU for 21 days while Dad went to Atlanta with Courtney.
"I didn't know what to do or how it would be done;
the Ronald McDonald House made everything possible."
~ Christy Maycox
Christy Maycox stayed with us for 57 days while Miracle was in the NICU. Miracle was born at 27 weeks gestation weighing in at 1 pound, 15 ounces.
"There were always friendly faces, warm smiles, and hot mails; helping us not to worry about anything except taking care of our baby."
~ The LaFoye Family
Hanna LaFoye, adopted daughter of Brad and Sonya was born at 31 weeks. The LaFoye family called our House home for 22 days while Hanna grew strong enough to go home.
The Smith Family
Eight months ago, our lives changed forever. This was the kind of change that completely reshapes you as a person, and everyone around you; world shattering change. We are so thankful for the people that were there to catch us - especially those of the Ronald McDonald House.
Here is Stryker's story.
On July 1st of 2013, we had a beautiful 4 lb daughter named Kennedy. The pregnancy had been tough, but bearable. It did pose quite a risk, and we had to be very careful. Kennedy was delivered via emergency c-section at 30 weeks at Midtown Medical Center. Our doctor had planned to perform a tubal during the c-section to avoid any chance of another pregnancy as it was so risky to my heath due to previous medical problems. There was confusion at some point, and the procedure was not performed. We spent 10 days in the NICU with her, and at the time we believed it was the hardest journey we would ever face. At that point we interacted with families that were staying at the Ronald McDonald House, however we never truly understood the meaning, and what our future would hold there.
In November at a routine doctor’s visit, we learned we were expecting again. I was in a great deal of shock. Especially as one of the doctor’s main concern was how soon we could terminate this pregnancy. We were told that I was not capable of carrying another child, even halfway to term-that the risk was too great for me, and my child. We refused termination. It is our belief that if God did not want us to have this child, or that if it wasn’t meant to be, he would take it from us, and we would not make that decision. It was expected that I would miscarry before 16 weeks. Being in public safety, I had to leave work for bed rest early on for any chance at carrying. Steroid injections were started at 16 weeks, and every week I was given an ultrasound and an injection. As the pregnancy progressed, so did the complications. We found out I was carrying another baby girl & we chose to name her Stryker. At 20 weeks, our doctor informed that Stryker was finally viable, and that we would begin preparations, but also to expect another preterm delivery. Contractions had already begun and I was put on several medications to help with them. During the time from 20-24 weeks I was hospitalized twice for extended stays.
On May 1st, 2014, Kennedy took a fall from a high bed, suffering head trauma - she was airlifted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Fortunately she was able to overcome her injuries, with no long term deficits. Once again we encountered families staying with the Ronald McDonald House. We heard their stories, and were amazed. With each story we felt more fortunate to not be in their place. It was after this point that the contractions began to come more consistently. I was permitted to take additional medication as long as my blood pressure was adequate. I kept being told not to stress, that it wasn’t good for my body or for Stryker.
At 25 weeks, contractions were coming steadily, and with increasing pain. After speaking with my physician, we drove the 2.5 hours to Midtown Medical Center, where my doctor was waiting. He confirmed that I was in labor, and that they would begin another round of steroids immediately. I was put on Magnesium Sulfate for several days. Very little of my memory is intact of that time period, but I remember the pain, and feeling so incredibly sick. We kept being told that EACH day gave our baby girl a little bit better of a chance. After a few days the medications had to be discontinued. Specialists were consulted and it was determined that I would be hospitalized until I delivered. I was at an extremely high risk for uterine rupture, which carries a very high mortality rate. We were terrified. I was looking at both my child and myself potentially losing our lives and leaving my family behind. At day 4, the nursed removed my IV, and allowed me to shower before placing a new one. As I got out of the shower and sat back in my bed, I began experiencing the most immense pain of my life. I began shaking uncontrollably, my blood pressure bottomed, and my heart rate spiked. Contractions were coming back to back, & all I could do was scream. The nurses immediately contacted my physician. Within moments I was being prepped for surgery. My doctor came in and told me, "I’m very sorry, but we have to take her now, we have done everything we can." We called my family, but before they could arrive I was rushed to surgery. The last thing I remember was being told that Joel could not join me, and the anesthesia mask. At 26 weeks, I would be delivering my daughter.
I woke up confused, and in severe pain. Only to be told when I was taken into surgery that my uterus ruptured & that our little girl was doing well in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit at 2lbs 10 oz. We were told she was a fighter. Regardless of the pain I immediately made my way there to see her. We couldn’t believe how tiny she was. Her skin was translucent, no eyebrows, no fingernails, and just so little. She was a beautiful tiny miracle. She was on a ventilator, to help her lungs rest. We were told she could be there for months, as she was not ready to be born. As I was being discharged, I began to wonder - where will we go? We live more than 2 hours away. What will we do? I could not leave her. I was panicking. That’s when Joel told me the people from the Ronald McDonald House had come to see him, and that we had a room arranged.
Stryker encountered many setbacks, including a bilateral pneumothorax, and a grade 2 brain bleed. We weren’t able to hold her for weeks. We couldn’t feed her, or touch her most of the time. But every 3 hours, we were there. We would not leave her side. The Ronald McDonald House made it possible for our family to stay together. Our other children came and stayed with us. We took turns visiting Stryker, while the other would spend time with the other children. While Stryker was still being cared for in the NICU, Kennedy was hospitalized in the PICU with pneumonia. I could not see a light at the end of the tunnel, and we felt as though we would never get to go home.
I can’t truly explain the burden that was lifted from us. We had a home away from home, warm beds, meals, and a RMH staff that soon became our family. I finally understood what the others had been trying to tell us. There was always a compassionate shoulder to cry on. In public safety I am used to seeing people at their worst. The Ronald McDonald House and their staff renewed my faith in humanity. They showed me that there are still people who care about others and our stay there truly changed our lives. You can't fully understand what the Ronald McDonald House does, until you have been in the shoes of someone who has stayed there, but I can tell you first hand that it is an amazing God sent place.
We spent 72 days at Midtown Medical Center. We bonded and spent time with other families there, going through the same things as us. It gave us comfort and support. We would sit down and talk with staff members, and volunteers, and amazing families would bring or cook us dinner at night. I couldn’t ask for better people. These people I now consider my family. When your world comes crashing down, It is these amazing people that will be there to catch you, and care for you. It’s these people that I see, that make me want to be a better person, and to do what they do; to make just one family’s life a little easier, just once. The way they did for us.
Stryker is home now, & at 8 months old she is doing amazingly well. We owe so much to the people that took care of her in the NICU, and the ones that also took us in.
Thank you to everyone at the Ronald McDonald House. You changed our lives.
- You have never truly lived, until you have done something for someone, which can never repay you.
The Slay Family
Dear Ronald McDonald Staff,
I have been trying to write this letter for quite some time, however, I can’t find the words. You see there are no words to describe how grateful Scott and I are to the Ronald McDonald House. After two years of fertility treatments and losing hope that we would never have a baby of our own, we began to accept the fact that God other plans for us. Then in November 2013, we found out that we were pregnant. We were beyond thrilled and couldn’t wait to find out what we were having. The day of the sonogram, when the lady told us it was a boy we were beyond excited. We picked out the name Ford Mason Slay. My pregnancy was smooth sailing, no morning sickness or nausea. However, on June 9, 2014 our world was rocked. I was rushed to West GA Hospital in Lagrange, GA by ambulance not knowing if we would ever meet our prince. Doctors and nurses came running in getting me ready for an emergency c-section. And then we hear the doctor say he was confident he could stop Ford from coming by giving me medicine to hold off labor and help develop Ford’s lungs. After ten hours, I was transferred to Columbus Regional where our real journey began.
On June 18, 2014 our lives were changed forever. I had a emergency c-section and woke up to Scott telling me Ford was tiny but perfect! He weighed a whopping 3lbs, 12.5 ounces. Seeing Ford for the first time, so tiny and fragile, was a memory that I will never forget. And then reality set in. What are we going to do when I am released? Ford would be in the NICU for the long haul it looked like, where were we going to stay? Then one of the nurses told us about the Ronald McDonald House.
We had heard of the Ronald McDonald Organization before. Scott’s grandma collects soda cans and tabs all year. We are reminded to save our coke cans and tabs every time we visit. Other than that, we had no idea how special the Ronald McDonald House was. We checked into the House on Saturday June 21, 2014 and this was our home away from home for the next 5 weeks.
When we walked in the door of the House for the first time, we were greeted by friendly faces. We were given a tour of the house and were told the rules. Then we were shown to our room. Our room was very cozy and inviting. We felt comfortable and safe. We were finally able to have a good night’s rest without nurses and doctors coming in and out every hour; without sleeping on a hospital bed or couch.
The first week in the house was a daze. We spent every second of the day at the NICU with Ford watching him fight for his life. Exhausted every night, we came back to the house to a home cooked meal from volunteers. We forgot to eat during the day and not having to prepare or have a food expense was a blessing.
Finally feeling settled, we began to interact with the families and staff of the house. Hearing everyon’es situation gave us comfort. We became each other’s support, shoulder to cry on, and ears to vent to. We became part of the elite group that prayed together and comforted each other. Many nights we would meet in the kitchen and talk for hours. When new families would come to the house we welcomed them. When families left with their babies, we cheered them on.
And then our day came! July, 25 2014 after 5 long weeks, we were able to take Ford home. Scared to death, we checked out of the Ronald McDonald House and started our life at home. Ford is almost 6 months now. He is happy, strong, and such a joy.
We are forever grateful to the Ronald McDonald organization. You gave us a home. You fed us. You supported us. You comforted us. Some of you cried with us. You encouraged us. And most importantly, you cared about us. Thank you!
Scott and Maggie Slay