Like any other expectant couple, Hatem and Hoda planned to welcome their new baby at full term and close to home at their local hospital.

Instead, Hoda had to be rushed to Townsville University Hospital via emergency flight, with baby Zain born at a mere 29 weeks’ gestation.

If that wasn’t stressful enough, the newborn was rushed into emergency surgery to treat a life-threatening complication at just three days old, while his mum also underwent unexpected surgery.

Dad Hatem recalls the time when life was unexpectedly turned upside down for the whole family.

“Zain had surgery and was admitted in Neonatal ICU in a mechanical ventilator,” said Hatem.

“My wife had a gynaecological complication during labour.”

“It has been the most stressful time of our whole life.”

With so much going on, Hatem hadn’t even thought about where he would stay while his family was so far from home, ending up in emergency accommodation with Red Cross for the first few nights.

The whole time, Hatem and Hoda were also thinking of their 18-month-old son, Yehia, who remained in the care of a family 386km away. 

“We had to leave our older son in Mackay. Once we were in Townsville, we were just thinking how he is managing,” recalled Hatem.

Thankfully a social worker at the hospital told Hatem about Ronald McDonald House. The whole family, including Yehia, was able to stay at the House in Townsville, just steps away from where baby Zain was receiving care.

Ronald McDonald House was a sanctuary during the difficult time for the Mackay family, providing a home-away-from-home with a private room and bathroom, fully-stocked kitchen facilities, relaxation spaces, and play equipment for little Yehia.

“Both me, my wife and my 18-month-old son spent 70 nights at Ronald McDonald House in Townsville,” said Hatem.

“There are no words that could express how thankful we are for every single day we spent in Ronald McDonald House.”

“We did feel genuine love and support during our stay, especially during this challenging time,” said Hatem.

However, it was how staying at the House supported their older son during the confusing time that will really stay in their hearts forever.

Big brother Yehia struggled to understand why his family had to leave him in Mackay so abruptly and why his mum had to be in hospital away from him.

Hatem said bringing Yehia to stay with them at Ronald McDonald House made all the difference and even turned the difficult time into an enjoyable one for little Yehia.

“He thought she left him. He wouldn’t go to her or let her hold him. That was so hard for my wife.”

 “We have been living in a place just like home near the hospital, so my wife can walk to look after our son. The house has an outdoor and indoor playground, so my older son can enjoy his time.”

 “We are very grateful for this support during this difficult time.”

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