Family Stories

The Walker Family

Gabriella Walker, now a healthy, vibrant 4-year-old girl, got a rough start in life when her lungs could not function properly after birth. During the time she was hospitalized, her mom and 2-year-old twin siblings, Johnathan and Sophia, stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Detroit so they could be by her side every step of the way.

Gabby was due on July 13, 2014, but because of her mom’s previous classical cesarean sections, her delivery was scheduled for June 16th. An amniocentesis test showed her lungs weren’t developed enough for her to survive outside of the womb, so her delivery was rescheduled for June 24th.

Family – Gabby as a baby

On the night of the 24th, Gabby was born at 37 weeks weighing 8 lbs and 4oz, a seemingly healthy baby girl. She was able to breath on her own. While her mom, Catherine, recovered, Gabby was taken to the nursery to be checked out and cleaned up. When she didn’t come back after two hours, Catherine’s mom went to check on Gabby.

Gabby, just a few hours old, was struggling to breathe. Doctors tried to assist her with a nasal cannula and C-PAP machine, but it quickly became clear that that wasn’t enough. Gabby spent her first three weeks of life intubated and in a medically induced coma. Her doctors tried everything they could to help her and Catherine says there were days she was worried she was going to lose her tiny newborn.

After three weeks, Gabby finally became strong enough to come out of the coma and breathe without assistance. But she had one more hurdle to overcome. During her time in a coma, her tiny body had become addicted to the sedation medications that had saved her life and without them, she was suffering from withdrawal. She had to be slowly taken off the drugs over the course of two weeks. At five weeks old, it was finally time for Gabby to join her mom and siblings at home.

These five weeks of hospitalization were incredibly difficult for Catherine. She was away from home in an unfamiliar city with two toddlers and a critically ill, hospitalized child. She found respite and comfort at the Ronald McDonald House and calls the House a “real lifesaver”. Here at the house, she found a place for her and her twins to eat, sleep, and play. Most importantly, it allowed her to be at Gabby’s bedside at all times, or at a moment’s notice in the middle of the night.

Family 1

Gabby is now four years old and is a happy-go-lucky girl. She has some health issues that make some days harder than others. She’s on the spectrum of autism, has a sensory processing disorder, central sleep apnea, and receives physical and occupational therapy for fine motor delay and low muscle tone in her legs. But Gabby is strong, and she’s fought her way to being a healthy little girl!

Gabby, according to her mom, is “a ball of sunshine and has been such a blessing in our lives”. She’s enrolled to go to preschool in the fall and Catherine says she’s so thankful for everything that Ronald McDonald House Charities Detroit provided her to make their stay feel like home.

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