It went very well the whole guest speaking thing for the RMH. I'd written something all out, made plans with DrillSgt. to have him say it, we got there found out we only had about 2 minutes, and so he just spoke. Turned out pretty well too! I stood there, tears in my eyes, because reliving that story gets to me...it always does, and because here was a chance to help out an organization that we will forever feel indebted to. There were some gasps from the crowd when they viewed the slideshow and when they heard that we stayed there for almost 15 weeks. Anyway, here's the written speech, kind of long and wordy and WAY over the allotted 2-3 minutes we were given---LOL!! (Of course names have been changed to protect the innocent!)
Hi, my name is (DrillSgt.) and this is my wife (MamaChanga). We are here to tell you a little bit about our experience at the Ronald McDonald house.
Prior to the birth of our twin daughters (Pistol) and (LongRifle), we knew very little of the wonderful place called the Ronald McDonald House. We had heard it was a charity of some sort that you could donate to, that it helped the families of children that were hospitalized somehow, but we had no idea it was an actual PLACE! Well, all that all changed on Monday, May 8, 2006
After trying to conceive for 8 ½ years without success we were at last anticipating the arrival of our twin blessings. It had been a fairly uneventful pregnancy, smooth sailing, no morning sickness, no complaints, and we’d just found out that more than likely we were having twin girls at our doctor’s appointment that Thursday. According to the doctor, everything was looking fine. (MamaChanga) had complained of feeling extra tired but the doctor assured us that she was measuring the same as a woman at the end of her 7th month, and had good reason to feel tired! Friday evening she was downright exhausted, but it had been a long workweek, so that too was easy to explain away. On Saturday she began to complain of discomfort and was beginning to think that maybe she was just getting sick, and by early Sunday morning we finally decided to call the doctor’s office. She explained her symptoms to our doctor who just happened to be on call and he suggested we go in to (our local hospital) just to get checked out. He calmly explained that it was probably nothing and she would more than likely be home that same day, but that it would be better to check it out and have a peace of mind. Good thing we went in, because when we got there and they started monitoring, they informed us that she was having contractions every 5 minutes. Our usual cheerful and smiley-faced doctor had a seriously pained look on his face after he checked her, more bad news, she was already dilated to 4 centimeters. He explained that they’d try to stop the contractions, but more than likely we’d be having our girls sometime soon. 23 weeks and 4 days along, just 2 days shy of the beginning of 6th month…it was way too soon…
The medications given to my wife enabled them to hold off the labor for another 24 hours (every hour counts when babies are coming that early) and it was enough time for her to receive the much needed steroid injections and surfactant to help develop their lungs somewhat. On Monday May 8th at exactly 9:54 and 9:55 am (Pistol) and (LongRifle) were born (we had decided on names at 4 am that very morning). They weighed 1.4 and 1.5 lbs respectively, and measured only 10.5 and 12 inches in length. Being only one cell thick, their skin was transparent, and their eyes were still fused shut (Vision is the last sense to develop. In utero, eyelids remain closed until about the 26th week). The two teams from Valley Children’s NICU were there to make all necessary preparations for their transfer to Children’s Hospital in Madera. It took a few hours, but they made sure to bring them the hospital room so we could see them before heading out. She was able to reach in and hold their little hands, and was given a picture of both (goodness how we treasured those pictures!). We were also given a code to call in order to receive information about how they were doing. They told us the first 72 hours would be critical…
We decided right there and then that I would follow the girls, (MamaChanga) still had to recover, but made plans to do whatever she needed to in order to be discharged as soon as possible. So my mother in law and I made the drive to Madera and it was there that the hospital social worker assigned to our case told me about the RMHouse. We would be placed on a waiting list and as soon as an opening came up we would have a room to stay in for $10 dollars a night. This place that was literally steps away, a short walk to visit our girls any time of the day or night that we wanted to. This place that would literally become our HOME for the next 14 (almost 15) weeks.
On May 10th my wife was discharged from the hospital, and although the doctor told her she should go straight home and rest, he also said he knew she’d go straight to Valley Children’s and visit our girls. Little did he know that not only would we go straight there, but that she would only come home 3 times during their almost 15 week stay. We spent the first couple of nights at my sister in laws who lived a little over 30 minutes away, it was closer than the 1 ½ drive from our home, but it was still not close enough to the girls. Although they had made it beyond the 72 hour critical point they were still very sick tiny babies.
On May 12th we received the call that there was a room available at the RMHouse. We gathered what few belongings we’d brought with us and checked in. N. was the first person we met, and her warm and wonderfully caring personality really shone through as she explained the “house rules” and how things operated. During our almost 15 week stay we would get to know N., J. and E. very well. They always had a smile to share, a listening ear, and encouragement to give. They shared our concerns, as well as our joy and celebrations!
It was as perfect as any “home away from home” could be. It provided us with a place to sleep and take care of daily needs, but it was also so much more than that. We were so close by that we made it a routine to visit our girls every morning, afternoon and night. We could stay as long as we wanted by their bedside, reading, talking to them, or just sitting quietly watching them grow. We were able to witness the first time they each opened their eyes, (Pistol’s) first frog push up, as well as a few scary events thrown in (like when she decided to pull out her tubing). If we called at night to check in on our girls and the nurses informed us they were having a rough night, it was easy to get dressed, walk over and sit by their bedside. Staying at the RMHouse provided us with a sense of normalcy. Our situation was very far from normal (as we were watching our babies finish growing right before our very eyes), but we had a place to sleep, a place to shower, meals provided by caring volunteers or a place to cook, and somewhere where our families and friends could stop by and offer their encouragement and support. It was also LongRilfe’s first home. Although she had struggled the most, she beat her sister out of there by 5 days. We brought her home to the RMHouse and waited for Pistol to “catch up”.
During our long stay, we also made some new friendships, other parents of children that were there. One couple in particular from a neighboring town in our area also had a premature infant, born the day after our girls. She was a few weeks farther along, so their stay was slightly shorter, however during the time we were there we became good friends. To this day we still keep in touch with that couple and their beautiful little girl.
So on behalf of my wife and I and our GORGEOUS little girls we would like to thank the RMHouse, its amazing staff, the volunteers, and benefactors for all that you do. You provide a home away from home, as well as support, encouragement, and comfort to all those families just like ours during such a challenging and emotional period in their lives.
Thank you and God bless you!