Six-year-old Claire is an aspiring singer and nurse, with a passion for swimming and peanut butter toast. She loves going to school and all the best things that come along with it - gym, snacks and recess. Today, Claire is just like other kids her age, but life for her and her family didn’t start out that way.
When Claire’s mom, Megan, found out she was pregnant with twins in the summer of 2015, her pregnancy was dubbed high risk from the start. Things progressed fairly smoothly through her 20 week scan, until her water broke at 21 weeks. Megan was put on bed rest for 18 days before going into labor with Claire’s twin brother, Grady, and then undergoing an emergency c-section to deliver Claire hours later.
Born 17 weeks before their due date, it was clear that Claire and Grady would remain in Sparrow Health System’s NICU for a while. In the hopes of giving Megan and her husband, Matt, a more comfortable place to stay for the foreseeable future, a social worker introduced the family to the Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan. The family was unsure about staying somewhere they didn’t know much about. However, after Matt took a tour of the House, seeing how nice and private it was, they agreed to relocate there.
The Stephens family spent five months at the House, from November 2015 to March 2016. While there, they grew to love its safety, the caring employees and the community it cultivated. Megan cherished being able to have family and friends visit her at the House, where they shared meals and spent quality time together. During the holiday season, Megan and Matt even hosted their family Thanksgiving at the House, where they were able to experience their traditional family Thanksgiving without the responsibilities of cooking, dressing up or traveling away from the hospital.
The best thing about the House for the Stephens family, however, was its proximity to the hospital. At the time, their home was 35 minutes from Sparrow, which would have made trips to see the babies difficult. With the House being across the street from the hospital, Megan and Matt were able to visit the NICU at any time. When Grady’s health began to decline, they were able to be with him in mere minutes before he passed away.
Months later, when the Stephens family was able to take Claire home from the hospital, they left the House with bittersweet feelings. While it was exciting for the family to be headed back home, Megan and Matt were nervous to step back into reality. Though it’s been years now, the Stephens family has grown — Claire has two younger siblings — and the family continues to look back fondly on their time at the House, grateful for the comfort, security and relationships it gave them.