The Ward Family

The night that Daniel and I came to the Ronald McDonald House, I didn’t have shoes on my feet. I remember this detail clearly. I was in a wheelchair, still recovering from my premature daughter’s emergency delivery. I kept looking at my shoe-less feet, wondering how I’d get myself shoes when I couldn’t drive, walk, and had no access to a car.

My name is Katie. My shoes had been lost, along with some of my clothes, somewhere between the emergency room in Dubuque and the ambulance ride to Iowa City. Our daughter Maria was born at 24 weeks and 4 days. By the time we got to the Ronald McDonald House, I was in pain, dehydrated, I hadn’t eaten in three days. I was bleeding from needle jabs and a c-section. Michaela welcomed us into the House, and I’ll never forget the night I met her. She was so warm and inviting. If she noticed I was an emotional and physical wreck, she never let on. She showed us around, helped us get a warm meal, toiletries, and showed us to our room, which was ready for us with fresh sheets and warm beds. She found me a pair of sturdy slippers, too.

Maria was born just before Easter, but I didn’t feel like I had anything to celebrate. That night when I came back to my room, I found an Easter basket sitting outside my door, and in it, a teddy bear and coloring book. Looking at that teddy bear and coloring book, I started thinking about how Easter with Maria might be, when she was strong enough to leave the NICU. Those simple little things, that teddy bear and coloring book, that tangible picture of what my daughter’s Easter days might look like in the future, that gave me hope. Hope that we’d get Maria home and have holidays together. I will never forget that Easter basket.

I was fighting every day to keep my daughter alive, to make the decisions that would save her, and I still had to eat, sleep, take a shower. I was away from home and family, and I spent most of my days in sterile rooms, but every night I had a comfortable bed, a warm meal, a hot shower, and encouragement to keep going. I had a way to get to and from the hospital. With the laundry machines, I could keep the few outfits I had clean. Because I didn’t have to worry about food, or where I would sleep, or how I would eat, I could spend that time with Maria. I could be near her. I could sing to her, read to her, and hold her hand. I could let her know I was there. I could tell her a thousand times I loved her.

The next person who needs the Ronald McDonald House could be you or someone you love, and every person who walks through that door needs what you can give. Donate now. I will always be grateful that, in the darkest season of my life, the Ronald McDonald House gave me a safe, warm, welcoming place to be. Thank you. Thank you always.

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