James was diagnosed at birth with Microtia and Hemifacial Microsomia. In layman’s terms, the left side of James’ face and ear did not form correctly. Because of the abnormality, he was unable to swallow. He was not able to take a bottle or nurse. He was failing to thrive and was very weak, so James needed to get a Gastrostomy tube (G-Tube). James is 100% fed through a tube that goes directly to his stomach. Because of all the time spent in the hospital with tubes and wires in and around his face, James does not like anything near his mouth. Therefore, he has not had much of a chance to learn and develop the skills to eat. We participate in outpatient feeding therapy programs multiple times a week to help alleviate these problems, but it is a very slow process.
Fortunately, my mother in law, an Indiana native, was reading the Evansville paper and saw an article highlighting the intense feeding clinic at St. Mary’s Hospital. This type of feeding clinic offered a different method of therapy was another chance to try and get James to eat. We immediately called and begged to start the program. James was accepted, and that is where the Ronald McDonald House of Evansville entered our lives.
We made the decision to do everything possible to try and help our son learn how to eat. I took a leave of absence from my job and my husband decided to stay back with our 2 year old son in Tennessee. This meant James and I would be in Evansville for extended periods of time for multiple therapy treatments. We felt lucky to be a part of such a good program, but also felt the strain of being in two separate states with bills piling up. The Ronald McDonald House reached out to my family at a time when we were in need. The entire staff welcomed us with open arms. We were greeted with a safe, clean place to stay. The staff provided everything from listening ears, warm meals at night, Christmas gifts and even postage stamps. There was nothing that we wanted for or needed while we were at the Ronald McDonald House. The hospitality was like no other place I have ever visited. From the moment we walked through the doors, James and I were part of the Ronald McDonald House family. Everyone, including the other house guests, were genuinely concerned about James’ well being. They watched us cry when James would not eat, and eventually celebrated with us when he took his first bite.
Although James is still not eating, he is trying. He is trying because we have been able to make several trips to the St Mary’s Feeding Clinic. We were able to make these trips to the clinic knowing that we had a secure place to stay. I felt safe in Evansville, my husband felt safe in Tennessee, and most importantly, my son felt safe at the Ronald McDonald House.
I cannot put into words how much gratitude we have for the Evansville, Indiana Ronald McDonald House. We are forever indebted to the precious people that have freely given to the facility. I can personally say that your generosity saved my family in a time of great need. Because of your gifts and service, my son has been given a second chance.
Kent, Amy, Harrison and “Baby James” Ayer