“Our son Austin was born at 31 weeks. He was transferred to Valley Children’s Hospital. We live in the City of Madera, so we were just 20 minutes away, but I couldn’t bear the thought of being away from my little one; it broke my heart. Thanks to Ronald McDonald House, I was able to be close to my son. Ronald McDonald House is a HOME. I felt like I was at HOME. The people here were so kind to me and my family. We are truly grateful to have been able to stay here with these fantastic people.”
-Michael & Miriam Oden

The Oden family welcomed their fourth member much earlier than anticipated. Mom Miriam went into labor and delivered Baby Boy Austin at just 31 weeks. Austin weighed a tiny 3 pounds and 1 ounce when he was welcomed into the world, and needed help gaining weight and learning how to breath on his own.
The family from Madera, CA checked into their room at Ronald McDonald House on September 15, 2016. Along with parents Miriam and Michael, Baby Austin’s older brother, 6-year-old AJ, also came along to remain close to his little brother. With having a child in grade school, and only having access to one gas guzzling truck, commuting between hospital and home was simply no option for the Oden’s.

Having a room in Ronald McDonald House allowed for mom Miriam to spend quality time with her baby boy, and allowed for Brother AJ and Dad Michael to have a comfortable place to stay between visits to Baby Austin’s bedside and grade school. The NICU only allows siblings of the patients to visit for 20 minutes a day, so AJ definitely appreciated all of the fun activities we offer for all of the siblings staying in our House during all of their downtime. AJ played in our newly renovated playroom, played with the PlayStation, got his face painted from a volunteer group, played in the backyard, and became great friends with all of the staff! (He was our little buddy!)

Mom Miriam is typically very shy and closed off, but found it very easy to open up to the staff and other checked in families during her stay at Ronald McDonald House. “The fact that there were other people in the same situation, or an even more challenging situation, made it extremely comforting to open up and talk to the other people and families staying at the House” says Miriam. Since the family has checked out, Miriam has remained in contact with two other moms.

Baby Austin began to defy all of the odds against him and was released one whole month early! When given the opportunity to be so close to their baby boy, Miriam and Michael were able to do a lot of “Skin-To-Skin” bonding with Austin. Skin-to-Skin Bonding is proven to help babies grower stronger faster and assist in the healing process! Miriam states that “Without Ronald McDonald House, we wouldn’t be able to see [Austin] nearly as much, and would not be able to do the skin to skin bonding that helped make him stronger.”

The Oden Family’s experience with Ronald McDonald House is just one of thousands that we see every year. Whether families are able to take their child home, happy and healthy, or unfortunately are not given that opportunity, RMHC allows families to be near their child during their time of greatest need; and that is a gift that is irreplaceable. Lessening the financial burden on families during these hard times is the least we can do, and keeping them close is what we strive to do.