Dillard Family Story: Overnight arrival? RMHCA has families covered

First time holding Ellie

First time holding Ellie!

Many families arrive in Birmingham in medical crisis with only the clothes on their backs, unsure of where to go or even turn for help. The Ronald McDonald House and now our Ronald McDonald Family Room at UAB Women & Infants Center can provide reassurance and a home away from home, no matter what time families get to us. This month, we want to introduce you to one of those families, the Dillards. Their story is told to us by mom Stephanie.

Ellie was born in Dothan on November 2 but by the next day the doctors there told us she was critical and needed to be lifeflighted to UAB in Birmingham. We hadn’t even been able to hold her when the medical flight arrived mid-morning to pick her up.

My husband Perry and I could not travel with her as the flight was only weighted for Ellie and the medical team. Luckily, my doctor released me late afternoon for Perry and I get to Birmingham. During that very long 3 hour drive, we didn’t know if our daughter would make it.

It was nighttime when we arrived at UAB Women & Infants Center. Thankfully, Ellie was settled in had already received her bath before we arrived and was snug as a bug tucked in bed. Perry and I both were scared to touch Ellie as she was hooked up to a lot of monitors but the nurse put her right in our arms!

After we got to love on Ellie for a while our nurse asked us where we were staying. I tell you, we hadn’t even thought of it! We were so emotionally and physically drained at that point, I couldn’t fathom trying to find a hotel.

The nurse immediately called and set us up in a sleep room inside the Ronald McDonald Family Room. Let me tell you, these are a blessing, especially for me after giving birth and knowing I would be as close as I could possibly be to Ellie! We had no idea these rooms existed! We stayed just one floor below Ellie at the hospital for our first two nights.

On our third night, we were able to get a room at the Ronald McDonald House, which is one block from UAB. I walked back and forth early in the morning and late at night. It’s a blessing it’s so close to the hospital!

By Day 4 in Birmingham, we’d run through our clean clothes but thankfully the Ronald McDonald House has laundry rooms. You do not realize how much small things in life matter until you are in need of them. The NICU nurse even gave me laundry detergent for Ellie’s clothes!

Every morning I would leave the Ronald McDonald House early so I could be in the NICU before the doctors made their rounds. I’m a huge coffee drinker and breakfast fan! Every morning coffee, juice, and breakfast is provided in the Family Room. This was amazing as I didn’t have to go find a restaurant to grab a bite to eat and I was right next to Ellie!

During our stay in the NICU I constantly asked when would Ellie get to go home and the doctors would say “it depends on Ellie.” We didn’t know if we would be in the NICU for days, weeks, or months.

Elizabeth visiting Ellie

Elizabeth visiting Ellie.

We were lucky and only stayed 8 days in the Ronald McDonald House. We were grateful to not have the worry of paying for a hotel on top of the NICU stay and medical flight. It is so amazing how the Ronald McDonald House can feel so homey when you’re far from home. We met other families and shared stories and enjoyed all the meals provided by volunteers.

Ellie at Day of Change 2019

Ellie at Day of Change 2019 in Enterprise.

The Ronald McDonald House also allowed us to bring our older daughter, Elizabeth, to visit! It was another relief for Perry and I to know that if we had had to stay longer in Birmingham, we would be able to bring her to stay with us.

Families need to concentrate on taking care of their sick children and not worry about finances. We are eternally grateful for the Ronald McDonald House and all the people who support it. Our stay could have been much more stressful but knowing we had the House and Family Room really lifted our burdens.

The Dillards have been home now but many families still need the Ronald McDonald House! Please make your gift or volunteer today to keep them close to their child in the hospital.