Family Story: ‘I can be a mom to all 3 of my kids because of the Ronald McDonald House’
A mom wants nothing more than to have her family all together, especially on Mother’s Day.
Every day of the year, the mission of the Ronald McDonald House is to give mothers like Caitlyn Rigsbee that wish. She and her husband Dustin are parents to three children and the newest addition to their family, Oakley, was born under very stressful circumstances. During her pregnancy, Caitlyn developed a condition where the placenta grows out through the uterus, threatening other organs and her own life.
Doctors monitored her situation carefully but had to deliver Oakley by c-section at 23 weeks. He weighed 1 pound 10 ounces and immediately went to the NICU for special care. He had less than a 17% chance of survival and his parents call him a miracle! Every preemie baby is unique but amazingly, Oakley’s only real issue is a lung condition (bronchopulmonary dysplasia) caused by long term ventilation.
Caitlyn herself had to undergo surgery to repair some of the damage from the placenta percreta, the most damaging case of placenta accreta. After about five days, she was discharged and came to the Ronald McDonald House.
“It’s so amazing because this place helped me heal too while being close to Oakley,” she says. “I could lie down in my room and rest after walking to go see him.”
Caitlyn says she saw a huge difference in Oakley once she was feeling better and able to spend more time at the hospital with him.
“I’ve watched him improve, spending hours with him. When I started holding him more, skin to skin, his vitals improved and he started putting on weight. It’s healed me too after the surgeries I’ve had,” Caitlyn says.
For about three weeks after Oakley’s birth, Caitlyn was separated from her older children, Skye and Ava. Her husband, Dustin, would travel three hours from Dothan when he could. The Ronald McDonald House has made a huge difference in bringing their family back together.
“It just all adds up: the meals, the room, the laundry. It’s like moving in and being a family. I can be a mom to all three of my kids at the same time because of this place,” Caitlyn says. “There are visitation hours for siblings at the hospital so the Ronald McDonald House gives us space to care for them too.”
“And Dustin says, ‘This place feels more like home than actual home right now,’” Caitlyn adds.
Caitlyn says having lots of play areas inside and out helps make the family feel more at home.
“The playground is my favorite as a mom because I can entertain them,” she says. “And then I can cook in the kitchen and watch the girls while they’re in the indoor playroom.”
Meals are also an important part of feeling normal.
“It’s kind of a cliché but we meet a lot of families at dinner, so it really feels like a family dinner with everyone coming together at night,” Caitlyn says. “After we were here for a while, I started cooking more in the kitchen and then I felt even more at home. I see other moms who have been here a while and they cook too.”
With the whole family able to visit Oakley, he’s able to bond with them just as much as they can with him
“He loves smiling at his sisters and snuggling with me and Dustin,” Caitlyn says.
Oakley is still gaining strength in his lungs and they’re working on his feeding. The family is hopeful for the future and how far Oakley has already come. And Caitlyn has been so inspired by her time at the Ronald McDonald House and the staff at UAB Women & Infants Center that she wants to become a NICU nurse!
Thanks to supporters like you, the Rigsbees will never worry about where to stay! Your time, talent and financial support provide a “home-away-from-home” where parents have all their daily needs taken care of so they can focus on what’s most important: their child.
Thank you if you have already made your gift this year. If you haven’t yet, please make a donation today in honor of Mother’s Day to help ensure RMHCA can continue its mission of keeping families together!