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Just weeks before her 5th birthday, Sarah was diagnosed with leukemia. During her recovery, she and her family stayed with us at the Ronald McDonald House, and after many nights, we watched as she was sent home a healthy little girl ready to tackle kindergarten.
Years later, we met Sarah again just after her son Aidan was born. “He came early and we had no idea he was going to be sick.” Aidan was born with VACTERL, a rare genetic complication that affects only 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 40,000 newborn babies. After his birth, Aidan was flown from Silver City to Albuquerque, where parents Sarah and Johnny joined him. They stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for 6 months as their brave little boy went through surgery after surgery.
“At just 4.7 pounds and three days old, doctors operated on Aidan’s airways to help him breath. At one month old he had another surgery on his trachea, then at three months old he was taken in to surgery to fix a hole in his heart. Knowing that I didn’t need to worry about where we were going to sleep, when we were going to make meals, or how we were going to pay bills, it was just such a relief, a relief that we could just focus on Aidan,” Sarah said.
Aidan and his parents were able to go home after 218 nights at the House. They spent weeks with him in the NICU and a further 4 months with him in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Aidan turned 4-years-old on May 10th. “He has always had a big personality. They used to call him Grumpy Cat in the NICU. Now’s he’s just a wild child, always trying to make us laugh,” said Sarah.
When Aidan was released from the hospital he had an oxygen tank, a ventilator, and more to help him cope with the challenges VACTERL presents, but today all he requires is a feeding tube. “He’s using ASL, he’s talking more and more. It’s just amazing to see how far he’s come. We share Aidan’s story to give people hope.”
We met Destinee after the complicated premature birth of her son Jayce. “I was only 28 weeks in when I went into labor early. I was transported from Farmington to Durango, then flown to Albuquerque. I was scared but I don’t remember much of the flight or the ambulance ride.” Doctors at Presbyterian hospital were able to stop labor for another four weeks, until Jayce decided he just couldn’t wait any longer. “He was born at 32 weeks on the dot and weighed just under 4 pounds.”
Due to his size, Jayce needed to spend some time in the NICU, but while he grew stronger, Destinee and Jacye’s Dad, Dennis, were able to stay right around the corner at the Ronald McDonald House. The couple says it was exactly the kind of help they needed. “Home was three hours away, so being able to stay at the House made all the difference.” Destinee says she has lots of favorite memories during her time at the House, but one of the most special was when Dennis asked her to marry him. “My mom, my nephew and my grandma had all come to meet Jayce for the first time. We were all spending time together in the backyard when I heard Dennis say something to get my attention. When I turned to look at him, he was down on one knee!” Destinee says a proposal at the House felt natural because it combined her own family with her “home-away-from-home.” “When our family couldn’t be there, we knew we could depend on the people at the House. Having someone to take us in like that when we were so far from home was amazing.” Jayce and his parents went home after spending 32 days at the House.
He is now a healthy 7 month old and has a new sibling due this fall! It’s thanks to supporters like you that RMHC-NM is able to continue to keep families together and close to the care they need for parents like Destinee and Dennis. We thank you for your continued support, kindness, and caring for our mission of Keeping Families Close, no matter the circumstances.