About Our Families
The families and children that stay with us are the reason we are here. During a time of crisis, they find comfort and hope within the walls of the Ronald McDonald House. Below, you will find a few stories of families who have stayed at our House.
Julian’s parents had quite a scare when he decided to come three months ahead of his due date. As she went in for her regularly scheduled sonogram, Colleen learned there were complications with her pregnancy, and she was referred to the hospital in San Francisco. Doctors at the hospital attempted to forestall the labor, giving them an extra week, but ultimately it was Julian’s time to be born. Sean, Julian’s dad, was working when he heard the news and immediately drove nearly 100 miles to be with his wife in San Francisco. Julian was born weighing one pound, 12 ounces, then immediately lost three ounces in water weight.
The next several weeks were incredibly difficult for the Warners, but thankfully, they found the support they needed at Ronald McDonald House.
“Because he was three months early, we almost didn’t know how to react to loving him. We were so afraid of losing him every moment.”Sean said, “Those first couple of weeks were so hard. But then we talked to other families and realized that’s how they feel. It really helped us come to terms with our own feelings.”
Aside from the emotional support families like the Warners receive from the other families staying at the House, our volunteers and staff work around the clock to ensure each family’s stay here is as comfortable as possible. The parents can focus on what’s important -supporting the healing process of their child.”They cook meals for us, we don’t have to worry about that. They just make it feel more like home,” said Colleen.
As the weeks went by, with the constant love and attention of his parents and the dedicated medical staff, Julian continued to get bigger, ounce by ounce. In just two months’ time, he grew to 41bs 4 ounces and was released to a hospital closer to the Warners’ hometown. He is growing into a strong, healthy little boy.
During their initial few nights in San Francisco, the Hostlers were sleeping in waiting rooms and hotels. Ericka was staying at the hospital and Mike was in a hotel with concerned family members. It’s not easy for a husband and wife to spend their nights apart; it’s especially hard when you’re in a new city and your newborn is fighting for her life. Fortunately for the Hostlers, a room opened up at San Francisco Ronald McDonald House.
On January 1, 2014, before she was even three months old, Coco Loq’ – Yan Hostler was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome and Hirschprung’s Disease. She already had numerous biopsies, four bowel surgeries and an open heart surgery. Just 71 days into her life, Coco had faced and conquered more health complications than an average person usually encounters in their entire life.
Coco was born on October 20, 2013, four weeks premature in Hoopa, CA, to parents Ericka and Mike Hostler. In the newborn nursery it was discovered that Coco was exhibiting health problems typical to children born with Down’s Syndrome, which doctors then tested her for. They also realized that Coco had a hole in her heart and a bowel obstruction. At just two days old, she was flown to UCSF Medical Center to be treated by experts.
The first three months at UCSF, it seemed that for every good thing that would happen, another challenge would be presented for Coco to overcome. From jaundice, ear infections and a cold, to worse–emergency surgeries, a collapsed lung and a car break in—this was one of the toughest experiences the Hostlers ever had to endure. If they weren’t able to come back to the House to enjoy a hot meal and a warm shower after undergoing some of the longest days of their lives, they weren’t sure they would have made it through without the support and lending hand from RMH-SF.
After her heart surgery and the emergency corrective surgery that followed it, New Year’s Day was when Ericka and Mike thought that their luck was turning around and they were going to be able to head home. Coco had been eating all of her meals and was on a great track to recovery.
After a scary setback involving her intubation, Coco was finally able to stabilize and get moving on the road to recovery. On January 30, 2014, after 100 extremely long, painful days in the hospital, baby Coco was given the green light to go home.
The Hostlers stayed a total of 94 nights at the House. Mike and Ericka’s ability to stay strong throughout those days was inspiring to all of us here at RMH-SF.
“If we were unable to stay at the Ronald McDonald House it would not have been possible for Mike and I both to be here in San Francisco with our daughter,” said Ericka.
Since her return home, there have been a few bumps here and there, but Coco has been able to meet her family, friends and well-wishers that have been following her inspiring journey since day one. Her follow-up tests have all yielded positive results and doctors (and us here at RMH-SF) could not be more proud of Coco!
A Letter from Jim
The first time I stepped through the front door of the Ronald McDonald House, tears came to my eyes. We’d gone through so much, and a big weight on me was that I’d have to leave Heather and Gio at this place and return to work in Santa Cruz. I’d missed so many days with the twins’ hospitalization. The door to Ronald McDonald House opened to a homey and welcoming place, and a staff you could tell in an instant clearly cared. A rush of relief…they would help watch over my family.
Altogether, Heather and Gio spent 63 days at Ronald McDonald House, with me there every minute I could manage. We rode the “roller coaster” of good news and bad, progress and setbacks of our twin boys. We were amazed and touched by others’ kindness. One day my manager and co-workers at Costco stunned me with the news that they had donated vacation days – twenty eight days in all – so I could rejoin my family at the House. The staff and the volunteers at the House got teary-eyed when they heard that news.
For us, the words “Ronald McDonald House” took on a warmth and meaning we’ll keep in our hearts the rest of our lives. Though the twins still need special care, thanks to you, the supporters of Ronald McDonald House, were on the road back. We live each day with hope, grateful there are people like you in the world. There are other incredible families – we know them! – staying at the House right now. Will you please join in helping them? Through your gift, you stand beside them at the darkest time in their lives. Your support brings them comfort, hope and love. Grateful forever to Ronald McDonald House Friends & Supporters. Jim, Heather, Giovanni, Caleb and Jayden
Denise and Clayton
On August 30, 2011, while my son and I were in a party store getting ready to celebrate the anniversary of his 10-year kidney transplant, we got “the offer”! This offer was for his second kidney and first liver transplant. Two weeks later our surgery was complete and we were ready to be discharged from the hospital but the doctors did not want us to return home since it was so far away. At this time, we were offered another wonderful gift – a room at the Ronald McDonald House of San Francisco! Then, it hit me. Would my son be able to heal and feel comfortable in this house? Would people understand what we needed, felt and were going through? How was I going to make my son do all his medical tasks in this restricted environment?
Those worries melted away once I arrived at the House. From the moment I walked in, I felt welcomed. The care, understanding and support I felt on that first day has only grown stronger over time. As days passed by, it was apparent we weren’t going home anytime soon. The staff made it very clear that we had a place to stay until my son was well enough to return home. That knowledge alone has relieved much of my stress. I couldn’t have helped my son heal, cope and deal with this situation without the Ronald McDonald House. My son was able to celebrate his 12th birthday and according to him “the best Christmas ever” while in the House. All of my questions have been answered too! Those of us staying here are all dealing with different issues. However, there is an understanding that we are not alone. I have cried, laughed, and shared frustration and joy with these families. When the day comes for us to leave the Ronald McDonald House, it will be a day of mixed emotions. The friendships I have made here will remain with me forever. We are grateful to the many friends and supporters of the Ronald McDonald House. Thank you for providing us with a home-away-from-home during this challenging time. Denise Tarabanovic
Allison and Nick Duran
It is hard to believe that it has been two years since our world was turned upside down with the news that our beautiful son had a congenital heart defect. Looking back, a lot of it is a blur. In an instant we went from blissfully happy expectant couple to devastated parents looking for any chance that our son would be OK.
The pregnancy had been uneventful–no morning sickness, no swelling, no back pain. We were at a routine growth scan when our doctor confirmed our worst fear, that something was wrong with our son. The world came crashing down in an instant. We were overcome with every emotion from fear to sadness and anger. It was at that moment, we chose to name our son: his first name would be Miles meaning “soldier or merciful” and his middle name would be Wayland meaning “the land beside the road”.
The doctors, unbeknownst to us, had made several calls to some of the best fetal heart specialists in the country to see what could be done to help Miles. Given the proximity to family in the bay area, and when given the option verses Boston, we chose San Francisco. Dr. Anita Moon-Grady, Director of the UCSF Fetal Cardiovascular program had agreed to see us for a clinical trial she was running for severe heart defects. Within 24 hours we were on a plane from our home in San Diego to the bay area.
On July 26, 2013 at 2:16 PM, Miles Wayland Duran was born by emergency C-section at just 28 weeks and 5 days old. He was taken to the ICU and the waiting game began only hours from the time he was born. A social worker at UCSF came to see us and told us she had placed us on a list for a room at the Ronald McDonald House. Very soon after, a room became available, so we checked-in and quickly learned how amazing every single person there was and how much they loved the opportunity to help the families staying there in any way possible. The staff was helpful, understanding, compassionate, and always there if we needed anything.
Throughout our three month stay, we became very fond of the staff and of the volunteers that would periodically come to cook meals for the residents. It was comforting to come back after a long day at the hospital and have a nice, home-cooked dinner of comfort foods and friendly conversation. The staff and volunteers loved looking at pictures of Miles, reading the website we made about him and offering us hugs when it wasn’t a good day. These interactions, over the course of a few months, became a welcomed distraction from our situation.
We found out in late October that they were going to try to get Miles placed on a heart transplant list at UCLA. He wasn’t quite big enough to be listed yet so they arranged for him to be transferred back to San Diego where he would be followed by the UCLA transplant team. During our last few nights at Ronald McDonald House, the staff came by to give us goodbye hugs and well-wishes for Miles. The staff also gave us their contact information so we could stay in touch and offered to help us get set-up at a Ronald McDonald house in LA.
Even before leaving the house we talked about how, no matter what happened with Miles, we would find a way to come back to Ronald McDonald House and volunteer our time, if only to repay a small fraction of what they had given us.
Miles fought valiantly but on November 23, 2013 he lost his fight. As we waded through the quagmire of grief, we chose to honor his life by doing good for the community in his name. So, on July 26th, 2014 we cooked our first dinner at the Ronald McDonald House on Scott St. We invited our family and friends to join us. Our family and friends came in from all over California to celebrate Miles and honor his memory. Just before dinner was served we lit a candle in a small white cake and talked as a family about our memories of Miles. We all enjoyed the opportunity to give back so much that we decided that it should be a yearly tradition.
We returned to the house this year and did the second annual volunteer dinner for Miles. Again, our family came to celebrate his life and honor his memory. Being able to help and provide support in the same way it was given to us was rewarding. Thinking about families that are sad, scared, exhausted and in pain; families who need a break from the cement walls of the hospital; families away from every comfort of home brings back strong memories and emotions. In some small way, making someone’s day just a little bit brighter helps us heal.
At this year’s 2015 dinner, we were honored to have two very special people with us–our beautiful daughter, Aspyn whom we adopted at birth in September 2014 and Dr. Anita Moon-Grady, Miles’s amazing doctor. Our family owes a great deal to both of them. Aspyn brings our entire family joy each and every day and Dr. Moon-Grady, gave us the gift of time with Miles. She has become a special part of our lives and it was an honor that she joined us this year in the celebration of Miles.
The motto of Ronald McDonald House is “The house that love built”. We have never heard a more understated motto. And, we look forward to being a part of the “love” for years to come.
Did your family stay with us? We’d love to hear your story. Send your photos, quotes, and letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please place “RMH Family Story” in the subject line.