When baby Oliver was born prematurely at 25 weeks and three days, parents Amy and Ryan didn’t realise that their lives in Mackay would be put on hold for three months.
“Oliver was born at 5 pm and rescued by his angels from the Townsville University Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and The Royal Flying Doctors Service at 8 pm”, said dad Ryan.
“My wife was unable to be discharged from hospital that night to travel with Oliver to Townsville, so we made the decision that we would both stay and travel together rather than alone.
“After discharging from the hospital the next morning, we set about packing and putting our lives in Mackay on hold.”
Arriving in Townsville late in the evening, Amy and Ryan weren’t sure what to expect.
“Amy and I were immediately blown away by the facilities at Ronald McDonald House,” said Ryan.
“Coming from an intensely stressful experience, it was such a relief to be welcomed into a place that had no hesitation in making us as comfortable as we could possibly be.”
The first few weeks of Oliver’s stay were some of the hardest and most stressful, recalls Ryan.
“There were so many questions, so much information to process and at the same time, what felt like a life or death discussion to make on the next treatment or course of action to take for Oliver,” he said.
But despite everything, Oliver – or his parents – never gave up.
“Oliver would fight every day. Some days we would get it right and have what felt like a small win. Other days, as hard as we all tried, it didn’t go so well, and the setback was so much harder to take,” said Ryan.
“This is when at the end of that day, Ronald McDonald House was just there for us a few steps away. A place close to our son that could be accessed at any time, with a hot shower and a comfortable bed. Because to make those important decisions for Oliver, his parents needed time out and a good night’s rest.”
Along the way, Amy and Ryan discovered something else about Ronald McDonald House that they weren’t expecting - the shared experience and support of other families.
“Although everybody’s story is different and families were at different stages of their journey, so we didn’t get to know everyone, there were a few families that we met who we connected with sharing our stories and journeys.
“Meeting people that can understand because they are in the same place is something that I think is unique to the House.”
Ronald McDonald House ended up being a home away from home for Amy and Ryan for three months while Oliver grew strong.
“Ronald McDonald House gave us three months of being close to our son at a time when he needed us the most.
“Three months of crucial decisions we could make as a family because of this House.
“Our son Oliver being able to see his mum and dad every single day, because of this House.
“Not missing one chance to cuddle our son because of this House. Then at the end of every day, a bedtime story and a good night kiss because of this House.
“Oliver is thriving now, and that has to have something to do with the fact that a place like Ronald McDonald House Townsville exists and is run by such amazing people.
“We will never forget and always be grateful this place exists.”
Learn more about our Charity Partner, Ronald McDonald House Charities North Australia.