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A Familiar Welcome

Shinee shares her story of how they came to call the Family Room a home-away-from-home a second time around

Shinée and Brandon Young of Riverton are the first to admit they knew nothing of the Ronald McDonald Family Room before they needed it. Now, having stayed twice in four years, they say they feel indebted to “the beautiful people that keep this incredibly important place afloat”. Shinee shares her story of how they came to call the Family Room a home-away-from-home a second time around.

We fell pregnant with Eviana in November 2020. She is our third child and having a history of pre-eclampsia, I took all the precautions to try to prevent it happening again.

My midwife was Jan Grennell and she was fantastic. She closely monitored my blood pressure at every appointment and at my 27-week check-up it had started to skyrocket.  Without any time to prepare I was sent to Southland Hospital. That was a stressful time, especially since we live in Riverton, 40 minutes away and also had our two boys Rylan (6) and Jordan (3) to care for.

After four nights I was discharged with a high dose of labetalol. It was less than a week, however, before the same thing happened again. This time when I was discharged, I changed my work schedule to try to reduce any extra stress.

With that, I came to my 29-week check-up prepared with an overnight bag – luckily. Tests showed my urine was laced with protein and my blood pressure was extremely high. I was told that I was to be transferred via helicopter to Dunedin for specialist care.

We cried a lot with this news but there was only time for some quick goodbyes, and within the hour I was being wheeled into Dunedin Hospital.

The aim was for baby Eviana to remain in utero for a further two weeks, however that plan changed really quickly. Just two days later, on 3rd June at 8.30pm a doctor confirmed I needed an emergency C-section.

I was alone in Dunedin and having to call Brandon, who was at home in Riverton (three hours’ drive away) looking after our boys, to tell him his baby was coming without him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I was rushed to theatre and Eviana was born an hour later at 9.30pm weighing 1360gm. During the surgery it was discovered I had a placental abruption. Both Eviana and I are very lucky be here and to have had the expert theatre team we had that night.

Brandon arrived at midnight and, after seeing our baby for the first time, spent the night on a hard chair in my room.

I struggled the first few days with everything that had happened, but the NICU team were wonderful. They clearly explained everything and assured me that all was okay. Evie started to thrive each day beyond any expectations and after just one week we were able to transfer down to Southland Hospital.

Getting back to Invercargill, and closer to home, provided a feeling of relief and a welcome sense of familiarity. I had been in the Southland neonatal unit before with Jordan after he was born at 34 weeks, due to pre-eclampsia.  Angela was the first nurse I saw; she had looked after us with Jordan too. I knew I was in the best hands.

A room was arranged for us at the Ronald McDonald Family Room which was another welcome and familiar setting. We stayed for five nights with Jordan in 2018. This time was to be extra special though – we were there 59 nights.

Eviana needed to learn everything. She was on respiratory support and for the first few weeks there wasn’t much I could do but just be there, cuddle her, love her and get to know her. Since I was staying so close by, I was also able to learn all her care needs which was another nice way to bond.

The Family Room also meant we could still do normal things as a family like watch TV, have dinner together or hang out after school. Helen and Andie, and Liz and the rest of the volunteers are beyond extraordinary.  They go the extra mile to make you feel at home. I had my birthday in hospital and Helen bought me my favourite Whittaker’s chocolate and gave me a beautiful gift. I felt so lucky. It’s little things like that that help get you through.

Another thing that will always stick with us are the memories and special bonds we created with the other families. We also learned a lot about ourselves and each other during this time. I’ve always known my husband is something else, but while I was in hospital, he was really next level amazing. He is unreal, he is my rock.

As the weeks passed, trying to get Eviana to gain and maintain weight was a rollercoaster journey, but finally, on the 9th of August with Eviana just over two months old and weighing 2920gm, we were able to head home as a family of five.

Our wee girl is still very little, but she is such a hoot and a smiley wee dot. We can’t wait to learn more about her as she grows, and to share with her how the Ronald McDonald Family Room played such a special part in our journey.



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