Ronald McDonald House Central Alberta celebrates fifth anniversary

By Troy Gillard (Twitter: @Troy_Gillard)
May 2, 2017 - 10:36pm Updated: May 3, 2017 - 1:00am

Jaymie Vandervlugt says she’s not sure where her family would be if not for Ronald McDonald House.
 

“I can’t even begin to imagine where we would be without that support,” she said from her home in Ponoka County.

At just 31 weeks, Joelle and Georgia Vandervlugt were born November 5, 2015 at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.

They were mono mono twins, a rare instance where both babies grow within the same sac throughout the pregnancy, placing them at high risk of cord entanglement and not making it through birth.

Joelle weighed just three pounds, two ounces and Georgia a mere three pounds, five ounces. But they made it.

About a week later, the twins were moved to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Red Deer Regional Hospital, where they required constant supervision.

“It was really difficult for us because our babies were born so little,” Jaymie recalls. “They would sometimes stop breathing and their heart rates would go down. They would have to be rubbed to remind them to start breathing again. Every day was like that, and multiple episodes like that a day.”

It was at Red Deer Regional where nurses told Jaymie about Ronald McDonald House.

“At first I thought maybe I could do the drive in every day. But I was spending every waking moment in the NICU with our babies, so that didn’t work. That’s when I ended up deciding to stay at Ronald McDonald House.”

Jaymie says words can’t begin to describe her experience at the house.

“From the moment I walked in the staff was absolutely amazing. They made me feel really at home and they were there to listen anything about my day, always asking how my day was.”

“The staff was huge, just such a huge support for our family. I can’t even put into words what they did for us.”

Ronald McDonald House welcomed the entire Vandervlugt family, Jaymie and husband Rob, their two older girls, Calee (10 this month) and Summer (4 ½), with open arms.

“We were so fortunate to have meals cooked for us so often, just endless support in so many ways,” Jaymie remembers. “I’ll never be able to give back what they gave to us. I try, but I’ll never be able to.”

It was also a huge help, Jaymie says, to spend time around and get to know the other families who were staying at Ronald McDonald House at the same time.

“They all knew what you were going through. Everyone’s story is different, obviously, but everyone had sick children or sick babies, or babies born early. Everybody had something you could relate to, so you could be there to support each other. There were a couple girls I became quite close with who had babies in NICU. We would have supper together or walk to and from the hospital together and talk about how our babies were doing. It was very valuable.”

A year and a half later, the Vandervlugt family has come a long way, and Joelle and Georgia are doing just fine.

“They’re great,” Jaymie said excitedly. “They’re walking, babbling like crazy, talking, happy, and laughing. They’re healthy, perfect babies. We’re very lucky.”

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Wednesday is the 40th McHappy Day across Canada. One dollar from every Big Mac, Happy Meal and hot McCafe beverage sold goes to Ronald McDonald House and other local children’s charities.

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