You never know where a friendship will lead.
Growing up in Michigan, Bob and Bill, Jr, were best pals and fishing buddies. More than once when Bill was grounded, Bob would prop a ladder outside his friend’s bedroom window so the two could sneak away to their favorite fishing hole.
Years later, these grown men lived to witness the joy of their own children, Abi and Bill, Jr., also becoming best friends. Unfortunately, Bill, Sr. passed before Abi and Bill’s wedding day, although they know Grandpa is never far away. His spirit lives on in their hearts and memories – and now, their newborn son, William James Peabody III (JP for short), bears his namesake.
Abi knew first-hand about RMHC, as her sisters, Carissa and Holly, and their children (who have some special needs) stayed at the Ronald McDonald House during various hospitalizations. Abi’s beautiful daughter, Lilly, now four, was born at just 32 weeks gestation, weighing two pounds, six ounces.
Fortunately, Abi lived close enough to the hospital that she utilized the Ronald McDonald Family Room daily, instead of needing to stay at Ronald McDonald House during Lilly’s three week hospitalization.
Fast forward four years later. The Peabody’s were stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, when they learned they were expecting their second child. At 16 weeks gestation, Abi started bleeding and experiencing unusually high blood pressure. Doctors placed her on bed rest, prohibiting her from lifting anything over 5 pounds. She strictly followed the doctor’s directions.
Resting at home one afternoon, Abi was having difficulty breathing. Rushed to the ER and hooked up to machines, the diagnosis was pre-eclampsia and pulmonary edema. Abi was then rushed by ambulance to Memorial Hospital. Doctors determined they needed to take the baby within the hour to save both mom and baby. The risks were real. Both life and death hung in the balance. Abi asked, “Can my baby survive being born at just 25 weeks?” Doctors expressed they were hopeful, and that it was the only choice.
Abi was put completely under for an emergency C-section delivery. Bill paced nervously in the waiting Room. Abi’s mom rushed to Colorado from Florida. 12 hours later, groggy and intubated, Abi used sign language to ask about her baby. A nurse relayed that she had a little boy, weighing just one pound, nine ounces. Miraculously, little JP was able to breathe on his own!
For the next 12 weeks, Abi healed her body and spirit while she and Bill took part in supporting baby JP’s development. Initially, JP’s fragile skin and the possibility of brain bleeds prevented Abi and Bill from holding their tiny son. They remained at his side, holding on to hope as beep by beep marked the minutes and hours. When JP was one week old, his Mom and Dad could finally hold him! Aiding the doctors in caring for their son, Abi and Bill shared days, nights, hugs, kisses and prayers. With the power of LOVE, JP began to thrive by eating and gaining weight. Released from the hospital on 8.29.14, JP now weighs more than seven pounds! He has sailed through two surgeries – repairing a hernia and laser surgery on his eyes.
Of their 92 day stay at our House, Abi said, “Staying here was the closest thing to being home without being home. Everything runs so smoothly! There was a lot of stress at the hospital, and, here, it was stress free.” Bill had previously only heard of a Ronald McDonald House. He said, “I agree. Being here was so helpful. It was great that I could take our car to work, knowing that Abi and Lilly were taken care of and within walking distance of JP.” He added, “The Ronald McDonald House provided us so much! It was ridiculous how much you did for my family!” Abi said, “Staff and volunteers took such good care of us, and everyone LOVED Lilly. She absolutely loved it here! In fact, when I told her JP was getting out of the hospital, she asked, ‘Do we have to go home?!’” Being at the House allowed Lilly to fully bond with JP – from daily visits with hugs, kisses and songs, her protective side emerged, as she told her Mom, “I won’t ever let anyone hurt my little brother!”
When asked if there’s anything more they’d like to add, Abi said, “I’m telling everyone, please donate at the canisters at McDonald’s. They support real families who are living in the midst of real struggles.” As she was speaking, two other military families staying at our House walked in for dinner, shaking their heads, nodding in agreement.
JP has been a fighter, taking huge steps toward healing thanks, in part, to the round the clock care and support from his family. Staying at our Ronald McDonald House kept Mom, Dad, sister and Grandma within reach of his tiny grasp, as family centered care is paramount for critically and seriously ill children.