Meet the Foster family

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From: McCaysville, GA

Jessica and Joe Foster, after trying to conceive for seven years, were told they were going to have a little girl. But, Jessica’s pregnancy did not come without complications. At 13 weeks Jessica began having problems. Doctors determined Jessica’s body was having issues that could ultimately cause a late miscarriage or even a preterm birth. She was scheduled for an operation right away and went in for a surgical procedure that doctors hoped would help prevent her body from doing so.

At 27 weeks Jessica began having contractions and had signs of early labor. She was brought from her home town in Georgia to Erlanger and they kept her for about five days. Since it was apparent Jessica needed to be watched for signs and the possibility of her going in to premature labor, arrangements were made for her and her mom, Cherie, to stay at Ronald McDonald House.

Jessica and her mother stayed for a little over a month as her body tried to go into premature labor every week, but doctors told her if she could make it to 34 weeks, they would release her to go home.

From the moment Jessica, Joe and Cherie arrived at Ronald McDonald House, they felt a sense of relief and support.

It definitely feels like a home. A home away from home. Every time we go somewhere we say ‘Okay, we’re going home’. It’s a really nice feeling to be able to come here. It’s a wonderful place.” – Cherie, Jessica’s mom.

After Jessica was able to go two weeks without delivering, she was able to make it home for Christmas. The family is thankful for all the love and support they found at Ronald McDonald House. After being home for the holidays, they welcomed Lakota Jane Foster just in time for the New Year!

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Meet the Sanchez family

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From: Dalton, GA

In July, Maria and Isaias grew concerned when their son’s headaches just didn’t seem to go away. They knew it was time to seek medical advice and they wanted someone to put them at ease over their son’s symptoms, but they were unprepared for what they learned.

On July 19, Isaias (Misa) Sanchez was diagnosed with a tumor. Though the shock never fully went away, they took action as fast as possible to get him to an oncologist. After the appointment with oncology, Misa was diagnosed with a glioblastoma tumor (also called GBM).

While Misa was receiving treatments and the appropriate medical care, the Sanchez family was able to stay 44 nights at Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House. Though it was their first time staying at the Ronald McDonald House, the Sanchez family had heard many great things about the services offered.

“We heard it was a nice place and they helped a lot of people. We knew we came to a good place to stay.” – Mom and Dad

With all the challenges they were already facing, for mom, dad and Misa, it was hard not having the youngest member of the family, Eric, and other family members close by their side. Even after saying that, the Sanchez family related how the Ronald McDonald House felt like a home and was a sense of comfort for them.

“They treat you like you’re at home” -Mom

Most of all, the Sanchez Family wanted future families to know, “You’re coming to a good, safe place to stay and you’re here to be helped.

RMHC gives families with sick kids the gift of togetherness and keeps them near the care and resources they need.

Meet the Valdez family

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From: Jacksonville, NC

When Hurricane Florence was headed directly towards North Carolina, towns along the coast were being evacuated as quickly as possible. As soon as Ana Valdez found out her family would have to leave, she quickly made plans to go to a shelter in Nashville. They were packed and on the road as quickly as possible, but never made it to their destination.

At 3:30 a.m. Ana Valdez woke up to her car flipped over a bridge and in 20 foot deep water somewhere in the Marion County area. There was no time to think about what happened, she grabbed her kids and they made their way out. She placed her youngest son, Josiah, on her back and told the other two boys, Ravon and King,  to stick together. She just hoped and prayed they would make it out. Once on the main highway, they waited for someone to stop for what seemed to be hours. Ana didn’t know how bad their injuries might be, but she had lost a lot of blood.

“I thought I was going to die out there. I just wanted to get to the hospital and make sure my kids were going to be okay.”

Eventually a cop arrived and an ambulance came soon after. They were taken to Erlanger and after tests, Ana found out she had a crack in her back, a broken leg and bruised limbs, but thankfully the boys came away with only minor injuries.

“When we got to the hospital, the people were so nice and took good care of us. They knew we had nothing, since everything was left at the scene. A couple of nurses came back with shoes and some clothes for us.”

The hospital nurses, along with a social worker, helped them make plans for shelter. Though Ana was thankful they were all safe, she was worried about going to a shelter and trying to care for her boys in her condition.

“The social worker came back and told me we were going to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. I was really happy and I felt really blessed. Here at RMHC they help you. They helped my kids and talked to them and made them feel comfortable. For a little while, Josiah, the  youngest was scared to go to sleep, but being in a safe place helped him.”

While staying at the Ronald McDonald House, several staff members and volunteers helped the family. Ana was worried and stressed about needing clothes, and clothes were donated. She didn’t know where to go next, but was helped with a plan to get her family to Texas.

Ana shared this advice for future families coming to stay at Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House, “This is a blessing and this is probably one of the greatest places to be at. It’s a place to take the stress off and not worry.”

Meet Milley, Zack and Baby Pheobie

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From: Charleston, Tenn.

Milley and Zack  had their little girl on May  18, 2018. Before Pheobie was born, there were little to no complications or indications of a problem during pregnancy. Physically, their little girl looked to be developing normally.

Soon after birth, Pheobie Butler started developing complications.  The first indication of a problem was her sugar dropping below 10. After that things sort of snowballed, Pheobie had two seizures and then stopped breathing twice. It took some time to discover what exactly she was dealing with, but the doctors concluded that a part of her brain did not fully develop.

Within a few weeks, Pheobie was diagnosed with hypopituitarism, hypoglycemia and hypoinsulinemia problems. Though it’s not rare to have one or two of these complications, it’s practically unheard of to have all three. The only two studies were those found in the 50s and 60s, but even those were based on humans with only two of the problems.  Baby Phoebie is the only human in the world to have been diagnosed with this as of July 2018.

Mom, dad and grandparents checked into the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House a week after she was born.

“After checking in, we felt relieved and thankful that we didn’t have to stay in a waiting room anymore, shared,” Zack, dad.

Milley shared how the biggest source of comfort for her was, “Knowing we weren’t rushed to be in and out, but cared for and didn’t have to leave until everything was taken care of for our baby.”

Other than having a place to stay, Zack and Milley were thankful for the friendly people, having dinner prepared for them, a place for laundry and just people to talk to and understand their situation.

Now, Milley, Zack and baby Pheobie visit Erlanger once a week to pickup her medication. Since Pheobie’s disease is so rare, her medications have to be specifically mixed for her. Though these complications could have held her back, she is still a happy growing and smiling baby.

Meet the Robinson Family

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At the end of October 2004, Krista and Vince Robinson found themselves expecting their first born daughter a little early. They were spending time in Robbinsville, North Carolina with family when Krista went into premature labor. She was taken by ambulance from Murphy, North Carolina to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

At 29 and a half weeks, Krista was put on bed rest and able to stay at Ronald McDonald House of Greater Chattanooga until she delivered her daughter. Though their vacation took a turn, the Robinson family still felt blessed to have a place to stay while awaiting Baby Reagan’s arrival.

On November 8, 2004, Reagan Robinson was born at 4 pounds and one ounce. Though Reagan didn’t have many complications, she was born septic and had to stay in the NICU to recover for about 30 days.

“My husband and I were blessed to have a place to stay close to the hospital while trying to care for our preemie so far from home.  Knowing we had a place to call home, having meals provided and support from the staff and volunteers were some of our best memories while staying at RMH, since we lived 400 miles away.” – Krista, mom

Now, Reagan is a healthy 13 year-old, performs in pageants and has claimed her platform as Ronald McDonald House. She loves the impact RMH had on her family when she was born and it just hits close to home.

Over the years, the Robinson family enjoys donating items from the house “WishList” to their local RMH in Gainesville, Florida, to help other families  in need.

Alachua, Florida

Meet the Ramirez Family

Oliver RamirezBeing a new parent comes with lots of surprises, but to greet your first born son two months early was completely unexpected. With Oliver Ramirez’ early arrival, parents Brian and Destine were excited when a family member who volunteers at the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House shared with them about staying at the House. They arrived at the House within the week.

Oliver was born stronger than he looked at 4 lbs. and 3 oz. Within 24 hours he was breathing on his own and only needed to get a little chunkier. Even with him being a healthier preemie, Brian and Destine were comforted to be staying close where they could walk across the street at all hours, even at midnight.

“When I first got here, my first reaction was the girl giving me a tour was super nice. It just made me feel at home. She told me where everything was. It was reassuring to know you guys try to help whoever you can. ” – Brian, dad

After that first encounter, Brian and Destine could only describe their experience at the Ronald McDonald House as being thankful.  Seeing the volunteers was a great source of comfort to the Ramirez family. They shared how it helped to put them in a great mood seeing how easily people wanted to help.

“I had no idea how people helped at the Ronald McDonald House, anytime I saw someone working or helping here, I said ‘thank you’, because I was grateful. You don’t see that often.” – Brian, dad

They even went on to share how amazed they were that two women would come with their children just to make dinner for families like them.

“When we first moved here, we found it hard to find our place in the community. After being here, we realized there’s a place for everyone. There’s somebody looking out for you no matter who you are. I think that has helped us settle in here.” – Destine, mom

The Ramirez family has checked out and they are now home with Baby Oliver and spending all the time they can with him.

Ooltewah, Tennessee

Meet Chase Thompson

Chase Thompson - Collage photoIt was around 6 a.m. on a “normal” day that 18-year-old Chase Thompson headed out for work. Within a mile of his home, he experienced a head on collision with a driver that fell asleep at the wheel.  Soon after, he was life-flighted to Erlanger Hospital and his family was notified.

Chase encountered broken legs, a broken arm and damage to his spleen, liver and pancreas.  Though every day is a new obstacle for him, he knows he can’t give up. Chase remains in the ICU where he has had many operations to repair and stop fluid from building in his abdomen. He has lost 30 pounds in a month, but still his family is grateful he had no damage to his head and his bones have been repaired.

The amount of shock the family has faced is overwhelming, but their high spirits and community support is strong. Chase’s family being able to be right across the street from him at the Ronald McDonald House has allowed for constant support. Mom and dad switch on and off between the days and nights. Doctors remind the family daily that his recovery is like a marathon, rather than a race.

The greatest source of comfort for Chase’s mom, Emily, has been the privacy. “The room, the more private kitchen on each floor and even the big kitchen; there’s just a lot of spaces in the House where you can get away. Here I don’t have to worry about food, meals, anything I would normally in daily life. Ronald McDonald House has been wonderful.”

Once Chase is discharged, he will be able to start rehabilitation treatments. His family and friends are eager to have him home in McMinnville again, but they are thankful for to be able to have a home here for now.

“The volunteers and families have given us hope. People just ask you how you are and how your child is doing. Really the whole experience with the staff at Erlanger and RMHC has been a great experience” – Mom, Emily.

McMinnville – TN