Meet the Moran Family

When Kristina and Michael’s twin girls, Abigail and Faith, were born four weeks early with

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Michael and Kristina holding twins Abigail and Faith with sons Braden (l) and Karsen (r)

respiratory distress, they figured they lived close enough to the hospital to not have to stay at the Ronald McDonald House.

After a few days of driving back and forth, their energy was spent and realized how hard it was to be home and away from their girls. They checked in to the Ronald McDonald House and were able to spend more time with their newborns.

“When I checked in to the Ronald McDonald House, I was an emotional wreck. Not from being nervous, but for being incredibly grateful.” – Kristina, mom.

While the girls stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit, Kristina and Michael were able to find rest at the House and balance their time between their twins and two sons, Braden and Karsen.

“The girls were eating every three hours. I felt torn with having two kids at home. Trying to do both was just exhausting and emotionally tolling. It was hard to commute back and forth every day. That’s why the Ronald McDonald House was a huge help. It helped with the girls and also helped with the boys because they could see me every evening. We would eat dinner together.”

During the twins NICU stay, the original thought was that Faith would be discharged sooner, but Abigail and Faith decided they needed to stay together. They both kept having episodes of apnea, a temporary pause of breathing.

On the 13th day in the NICU and Kristina and Michael’s seventh night at the Ronald McDonald House, they were able to take the twins home on heart monitors.

“Truthfully, being close to the girls by being right across the street was the best part of my stay at the Ronald McDonald House; not having to worry about the little life details…”

Today, Abigail and Faith are still on monitors but doing better than ever at home with their proud big brothers and parents.

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Meet the Lawrence Family

Parents Heather and Shawn Lawrence checked in to the Ronald McDonald House as dsc_0212returning residents. They stayed here a few years prior when son, Bo, was born early. On Oct. 22, Heather delivered her daughter, Ava, five weeks early. Unfortunately, she had breathing problems and jaundice. They were glad to return to the House, but also worried while trying to stay hopeful their daughter would recover.

“We felt like we were at a second home,” said Shawn Lawrence.

“It was very comforting getting to check in for the second time. It was a huge weight lifted off of our shoulders.”

Big brother Bo was also just as grateful to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. “Bo loves staying here and calls it the ‘McDonald House!’”

Brothers and sisters are always welcome considering the House has a play room and teen lounge offering tons of toys and games like air hockey, basketball throw board games and various other stuffed animals and toys.

After Ava grew healthy enough to return home, they checked out on Halloween after staying at the House for five nights.

Meet the Murphy Family

A smooth pregnancy is what all new moms and dads hope will happen. What gets scary is20161017_114913 when the pregnancy goes just as it should and then one day, turmoil strikes. Terry and Brittany Murphy had an easy going pregnancy and then 25 weeks in, Brittany was in labor for 12 hours without knowing it. Their daughter, Bralynn, was born early weighing only 1 lb. 10 oz. They were scared, shocked and did not quite know where to turn for rest until they were introduced to the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House.

The next few months felt like a waiting game. Seven weeks in, Bralynn was breathing on her own. After checking in the House and Bralynn seemed to be improving, their outcome was finally looking hopeful.

“I don’t know what we would’ve done without the Ronald McDonald House,” Terry said.

“It’s so nice to have a community of people in the same situation at the House. We can talk amongst each other which helps emotionally.”

Now, Bralynn is breathing well, transitioning into bottle feeding and expected to keep progressing.

The Massengale Family

FamilyPhotoWith several unsuccessful pregnancies to leave Kara Massengale and her husband, Brent, heartbroken, it was only natural for them to be fearful when they found out they were pregnant once again. At just 17 weeks pregnant, things didn’t seem hopeful. That didn’t stop them from believing their son, Brooks, would survive.
At nearly eight weeks early, Brooks beat the odds with the exception of a brain bleed. Two
weeks after his birth, he was stable and it was only a matter of time before he grew big enough to be discharged from the hospital.

The doctors estimated Brooks’ NICU stay to be two-months-long. With the estimated stay, the thought of driving back and forth from Dayton, Tennessee multiple times a day seemed like another daunting stressor added to the equation. Then, Kara and Brent found hope in the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House®.

“It’s so nice to have a reliable place to stay and an opportunity to meet other families,” BabyBrooksKara said.

“We’re able to see our son more. I would be sleeping in the NICU if [the Ronald McDonald House] was not here.”

The Massengales have stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for over 47 nights and found rest, comfort and community in the House with mothers’ and fathers’ also going through difficult times.

The McAnly Family

DSCN6860Laura and her husband, Michael, from Hillsboro, Tennessee recently stayed at the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House for a second time during May and June. Their beautiful newborn triplets, Benjamin, Thaddeus and Nathanael came into the world eight weeks early. Although, this wasn’t their first stay.

The first time they stayed at the House was in August of 2014 when their newborn daughter, Annabelle, had a stroke and uncontrolled seizures. She ended up staying in the intensive care unit and was later well enough to go home that September. Little did Laura and Michael know, they would be back again nearly two years later.

When their triplets were born early, they checked in to the House. This time, Annabelle was by her parent’s side and got to stay close to her three new little brothers!

“I really liked to interact with other residents. It was an opportunity to be really encouraged,” said Laura. Both stays were an equally good experience for them during their trying times. They will never take the home cooked meals and private bedrooms for granted. After a 20 night stay, a family that was once a family of three went home as a family of six.

A Second Visit

cropped.jpgAmanda and T.J. Dockery of Murphy, North Carolina once stayed at the Ronald McDonald House® in 2007 when their son Jack was born 16 weeks early. Little did they know, it wouldn’t be their last visit. On Feb. 18, their daughter Hannah was born six weeks early. In addition to being premature, she struggled to eat.

They checked in for their second time just a few days after Hannah’s birth on Feb. 23. Since Amanda was only a short distance from the hospital thanks to the Ronald McDonald House, she was able to be by Hannah’s side and encourage her.

“[Hannah] eats better when I’m feeding her and wouldn’t have progressed as well without the interaction. If it wasn’t for the Ronald McDonald House, I wouldn’t be able to spend time with her.” Amanda said.

While she made sure Hannah was receiving the proper nutrition, Amanda had to get some nutrition of her own. Staying at the Ronald McDonald House served as a gateway for food and rest in order to rejuvenate during a fearful time.

Other than the rest, one of Amanda and T.J.’s favorite parts about the House was the flexibility it offered. Their mothers, Wendy and Gloria, came to visit and help every now and then. Jack was able to visit on the weekends and take advantage of the teen lounge equipped with air hockey and pool tables, board games, computers, a television and plush chairs.

“When Jack comes to visit, the game room is comforting to him. It’s neat to show him that we once stayed here when he was small.”

The Dockery family checked out on March 13 after staying for 19 nights. Today, Hannah is growing and doing well in her own home.

Meet the Stephens Family

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Randy and Beth Stephens of Cleveland, Tennessee have three children, John, Will and Kate who anticipated meeting their newborn sister Annie on Dec. 21. Between finding out Annie suffered from dandy-walker syndrome, a human brain malformation, and seizures in the hospital which caused Annie to also have hydrocephalus, an excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain, it was uncertain on when Annie’s siblings could meet their newborn sister.

On Dec. 28, Randy and Beth found refuge in the Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House. “This place just highlights all the good in the world,” said Randy Stephens. They considered the House to be an “absolute blessing,” as Beth described it. When they found refuge, they started to find hope.

On Christmas Eve, Annie had a shunt put in to help with her hydrocephalus.

After being separated while their parents tended to their baby sister, John, Will and Kate were finally able to stay with them at the Ronald McDonald House. “My little girl would cry at night because we had to be separated.” Because they were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, they could all be together and not miss memories.

Other than being able to stay close to Annie and have the rest of the family stay with them from time to time, Beth appreciated being able to meet others at the House who were also experiencing hardship, “I love the sense of community and meeting other people.”

IMG_1046After days of constant prayer, surgery and care, Annie was discharged from the NICU. Randy and Beth checked out of the Ronald McDonald House on Jan. 18. 

For 21 days they found rejuvenation in the “House that Love built.” “It made all the difference in the world,” Randy said.

Today Annie has a bright future. Her brothers and sisters immersed her with love and were ecstatic when she came home for the first time. “My 7-year-old waved us in. I’ve never seen his face light up so much.”