Nanaimo's Emily Stead found out she was pregnant with her "miracle baby" Oliver in June 2015.
As Emily wrote, thus began the struggle for her baby and a road to truly understanding the value of Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon:
We went to Children's Hospital on Sept. 17, 2015 for an ultrasound to look at the development of the baby's organs as I am a type 1 diabetic and it can affect the development of the baby.
During the ultrasound the technician could see the baby's bladder wasn't holding urine. I was then told our baby had Bladder Extrophy — meaning the bladder was on the outside of the body.
We were told our baby would need to have an extensive surgery when he was born and that he would be in hospital for eight-plus weeks.
Immediately I was scared for my child's life and what his future would look like.
It took some time to set in but once reality hit we became concerned how we would keep our family together.
Would we have to move half our family? I also have a daughter who I didn't want to be away from.
I was then put in touch with a representative from Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon. They reassured me that they would be able to have our family stay while our baby was fighting his battle.
I had heard of RMH but had never known exactly what it was. The first time we went to the house you could feel the love and warmth. We were greeted by a welcoming receptionist and given a tour of the house and the accommodations.
It is so beautiful in the house — slides, reading nooks, games and toy rooms, even gardens to play and plant in. Pretty much everything we had at home and more.
Oliver surprised us with his arrival seven weeks early and we were suddenly rushed to Vancouver from Nanaimo, where both Oliver and I were admitted to hospital. My fiancé was with us and he was welcomed to the RMH house with open arms. He was given everything he needed to settle in for a long stay.
The support of the staff and volunteers is so appreciated and welcoming. They have family dinners where volunteers come to donate their time and supplies to cook for families. There is music therapy, arts and crafts, yoga and even hair and make-up days for the moms who could use the lift.
I was shortly released from hospital and we stayed at RMH for seven weeks, with a rotation of different family members and friends for support so my fiancé could still work in Nanaimo.
He came on weekends and when Oliver had struggles. The staff and volunteers at RMH house always made whoever was there feel welcomed and if by chance we needed space that day, there was always a place to go and be comfortable with our support. Or if needed there were always lots of positive regards and warm hugs.
We took many trips back and forth from the Children's Hospital to RMH house but it was so close it makes it easy for midnight feedings and heaven forbid, emergency calls. We take comfort knowing our child is so close even when you feel we should be there but know you need sleep to keep going.
Oliver had his surgery and it went perfectly. It was days after that he had some side effects from the drugs and he needed to be put on a breathing machine.
I'll never forget the day as I just needed to walk to clear my head. I ended up at RMH and I went to the kitchen to get a drink and process what had happened.
Another mother, I had never met but had seen around the kitchen a few times, just walked up with no words and just hugged me. Tears streamed down as I knew I wasn't alone. Maybe not the same situation but we are all parents and we all know what it's like to watch our baby's struggle.
It really hit me how special the RMH family is and truly special the house that love built is.
Oliver is amazing now and we just celebrated his second birthday in December. We head back to Vancouver every six months and we are back in February and will be staying at RMH. We find out if Oliver will still have one or two more surgeries but it makes it a lot easier knowing we will always have the RMH and the support there.
For over 30 years, Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon has been providing accommodation for seriously ill children and their families when they must travel to Vancouver for their child’s major treatment.
Their new campaign hopes to encourage people to Gift A Moment to a family in need. As part of our support of the program, we'll be sharing a series of four stories from local families whose lives have been impacted by RMH BC.