Below is a story written by a family that used to live in Ponoka County and wound up using the services of Ronald McDonald House of Central Alberta during the time that their premature twins were being looked after at Red Deer Regional Hospital.
It is through the support of people and donations made during the annual McHappy Day – taking place this year on May 3 – that can make a huge difference to the lives of thousands of families such as the Vandervlugt’s. Join other Canadians on May 3 by making a purchase or donating to the cause at McDonald’s.
The Vandervlugt family story
When we found out we were blessed to be pregnant with twins, our whole life changed.
Not only were we having twins but we were having the rarest type, mono mono, which only happens in one per cent of all twin pregnancies, so it’s extremely rare.
It means they share the same sac and are at incredibly high risk for cord entanglement and the very unfortunate circumstance of not making it.
Many mono mono babies don’t make it to viability, which is so very heartbreaking. Moms go in-patient into hospital at 24 weeks pregnant for daily monitoring of the babies to make sure they are safe until they are born around 32 weeks via scheduled c-section.
So at 24 weeks, I checked into the Royal Alexandra Hospital antepartum unit for my hopefully six week in-patient stay, until my babies made their arrival into this world two months prematurely. I left my husband and my two girls – Calee who was eight and Summer who was just two – behind an hour and a half away.
The babies did well up until one of my weekly routine ultrasounds at 31 weeks exactly showed they were in big trouble. They were born that day via emergency c-section nine weeks premature and 11 days shy of our scheduled c-section. Joelle Robynn weighed just three pounds, two ounces and Georgia Jean weighed three pounds, five ounces.
About a week after they were born, they were doing well enough to be transferred to the Red Deer NICU and so began our amazing, wonderful, incredible time at the Ronald McDonald House.
It was suggested to me that I go and stay there by one of my girls’ nurses in the NICU, as we lived 45 minutes away and this way I could be close to the girls.
From the moment I arrived and was greeted by the staff, I felt a huge amount of love and compassion from them. They were so friendly and caring and did everything they could to make me feel at home. The house was warm, cozy and beautiful. It made me feel incredibly grateful to have this place to go to in such a difficult time.
We were constantly worried about our babies because they were having a lot of breathing issues, and heart rate and oxygen drops. It was actually to the point they would stop breathing and would have to be reminded to breathe.
It was horrible to watch them go through that multiple times daily. It seemed constant in the beginning but I guess that’s normal when you’re born at 31 weeks.
The Ronald McDonald House was an escape, even if only to come and eat and head back to the hospital. The staff was always there in the good times and the hard to listen and console. The people who volunteer to cook at the House are equally as amazing.
The House was such a huge blessing for me and my whole family. We are so thankful to have had a place like this to go to. Words cannot even describe how grateful we are and how important it is for other families to have this place.
The Ronald McDonald House and its staff go above and beyond for their families who stay there. I cannot imagine what our journey would have been like without it. My girls are now beautiful amazing 17 months olds, who both are perfect in every way.