Anneliese and Chris Dillman are the new parents to two beautiful twin girls, Mia and Juliette. After arriving early at 32 weeks, the girls both required assistance breathing and had feeding tubes. In addition to the many adjustments that come with welcoming new babies into the family, the Dillmans now had a hospital stay to plan for.
“When I was still in the hospital, a family care person came to talk to us about our plans regarding the girls' NICU stay. She mentioned the Ronald McDonald House and asked if we were interested. The hospital is about an hour from our house so we qualified, and my husband and I were very interested.”
Anneliese and Chris checked in shortly after, right before the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic. “The staff was amazing from the very beginning. I was discharged late in the evening so someone stayed a little late to help my husband get us all checked in before he came back to the hospital to get me. I was very emotional at the time, having given birth early and then having to leave my babies at the hospital. I was immediately overwhelmed with what was offered at the House.”
“Our room had everything we needed and was nice and clean. We had access to a stocked kitchen, which was amazing and more than I could have asked for. They had a breast pump I could borrow, and there was even a refrigerator specifically for storing breastmilk. The staff was always so kind, asking if there was anything we needed, and they consistently checked in with me regarding how my girls were doing. “
Anneliese said that without the Ronald McDonald House, she could not have imagined how much more difficult her journey would have been. “I was still healing after giving birth and I couldn't drive, so there's no way I could've driven an hour both ways every day to see my babies. It was already so painful leaving the hospital without them, so if I also couldn't have visited them every day, I don't know what I would've done. The Ronald McDonald House is an absolutely amazing resource for families going through a very difficult time. Knowing there are people out there that are so willing to help others really makes you realize the kindness in the world. The absolute last thing you want to worry about while having a child, or in my case children, in the hospital is how to be able to visit them.”
Anneliese stayed for one month at the Ronald McDonald House, most of the time alone, after Chris had to checkout to return to work. “This was by far the scariest and loneliest time of my life, and it was all such a blur. But what I remember most were the little interactions and moments of kindness I experienced while at the House. I remember very clearly one afternoon when I was trying to get to the hospital and the shuttle didn't show up. I didn't have a car, so it was my only way to get there. A staff member helped me for almost an hour, calling multiple people trying to figure out where it was. I was so emotional and panicking that I wasn't getting to see my babies, and she was so kind and helpful. Another staff member, every time she saw me, always asked how my girls were doing. And she seemed genuinely interested and happy to hear. With the amount of people staying at the House I was so touched that she remembered me and my particular situation. I desperately needed those bits of kindness and humanity while primarily living in the NICU.”
Anneliese said that even throughout the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, the House was accommodating and supportive. Despite the ever-changing rules and precautions, they were so grateful that the House remained open and allowed them to remain close as a family.
“It was a long journey, spent at a total of 3 hospitals, with one of my daughters coming home after 29 days and the other after 72. But thankfully they are healthy, happy, growing like crazy, and HOME! We remain eternally grateful to the Ronald McDonald House.”