Jennifer and Justin made all their preparations as most parents do for the birth of their first child, but what they didn’t prepare for was to have their daughter born prematurely. 

When Jennifer started having pain in her right ribs and elevated blood pressure, it was a sign that something was not right with her pregnancy. After a trip to the hospital, it did not take long for the doctors to diagnose Jennifer with HELLP syndrome, a pregnancy complication that affects the blood and liver during pregnancy, and needed immediate medical attention. She was told she would be delivering her baby as soon as possible, weeks before her due date. Jennifer and Justin were rushed to Charleston where they would deliver their baby girl, Gracelyn, weeks before her due date. After spending several nights in the hospital, Jennifer was released to go home. Gracelyn, however, had to remain in the NICU a while longer.

Gracelyn spent 23 long days in the NICU. During that time, Jennifer and Justin needed a place to stay close to their daughter’s side. “I don’t think we could have left her really even if we didn’t have a choice.” Living miles away from the hospital, they were unsure where they would stay until she was healthy enough to come home.

Justin and Jennifer were then referred to the Ronald McDonald House where they would stay within walking distance of their daughter while she received the life-saving medical care she needed. “It takes a big stress off of you. I actually got some good nights of sleep here. I don’t know if I would have slept at all at home knowing I was 60-70 miles from my daughter laying in an incubator trying to fight for her life.”

Many thoughts went through Justin’s head as he processed the news about his daughter being born early. The support system that the Ronald McDonald House provided, however, gave him comfort and helped him focus on what mattered the most– making sure his wife and daughter went home safe and healthy. “I went from I could lose my wife, I could not have my daughter, I could be raising my daughter alone, to a group of people that gave me a place to sleep that I didn’t have to pay anything for and a place to eat. If it hadn’t been for Ronald McDonald House, I don’t know where we’d be financially. Now we’re stable and continue to move forward thanks to this place.”

Jennifer and Justin did not have time to prepare when they found out their daughter would be born early. During their stay at the Ronald McDonald House, Jennifer and Justin were given all the necessities they needed so they could care for their daughter. “I was expecting somewhere just to lay my head,” said Jennifer. “But you had everything and anything you needed right at your fingertips. Whether it was toiletries or simple things you just take for granted, and it was all right here for us.” Jennifer and Justin also found the support they needed through the help of staff and volunteers while they were away from home. “The staff, the friends we made here, I still talk about everybody every day just because of how welcomed you feel, the support you have. You’re away from your family and you have a family here.

“Gracelyn is 2 years old now! She’s happy and healthy. We attribute that to the help of RMHC and The NICU staff at CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital. The staff and volunteers always made us feel at home and treated us with such kindness and care. We left there feeling like we had an extended family. Truly am blessed to have met them in our time of need. The friendships we made in the house with other parents and families in our situation. We are always praising the staff and volunteers. Thank you, folks, for all you do and continue to do!”

Help families, like the Jennifer and Justin, have the comforts of home while they care for their hospitalized children. While the cost of what we do is high, we do not charge families for their stay. Any donation, big or small, will help Ronald McDonald House families continue to have a place of rest and support when they need it the most.