Laikyn Howard was born to Jenna and Jeff Howard at 24 weeks and five days. She’s now ten weeks old. Laikyn is another modern miracle. After the couple spent the first 5 weeks at their local hospital’s NICU in Huntington, West Virginia, Laikin was transferred to the NICU at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Fortunately, when Jenna learned her baby would be going to the world-renowned hospital in Columbus, she already knew where she would be staying.
Jenna had learned about the Ronald McDonald House years ago from a friend who works in the development department at the local House in Huntington. In fact, Jenna says she and her husband have made donations to the local House and Jenna has often volunteered her time with a group at the House back home, even bringing Laikyn’s 9-year-old and 5-year-old sisters to help cook meals for families staying there. “When we had an idea we might be transferred to either Columbus or Cincinnati, I had reached out to her and asked her if they were open…if they were taking guests…if there was a waiting list,” Jenna said. “I told her I never thought I would ever need a Ronald McDonald House and she said to me, ‘If I could only tell you how many times people say that. You never know you’ll need it and you get more of an appreciation for it, especially when YOU need it.’”
When it comes to convenience for families with a child in the hospital, Jenna pointed out that it’s such a relief to be at a Ronald McDonald House so close to the local children’s hospital. “We just keep one car and my husband goes back and forth and it’s just easier for us right now, so I can walk wherever I need to go. And with them providing the meals, that’s another huge thing.” Jenna said.
There have been some major changes at hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses since the pandemic arrived. One major change at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and our Ronald McDonald is the inability for siblings to be able to visit, which can be hard on a family. Knowing their daughter would be in Columbus for a long time, the Howards made up a schedule so Jeff could continue to work back in Huntington but drive up to Columbus to stay at the House every other weekend. That would give Jenna time to go home and see Laikyn’s sisters. Of course, Jeff also comes up for major procedures at the hospital too. Fortunately for Jenna, she was already a tele-work employee, so she finds working from the room in our House very easy. Jenna said she especially appreciates the meals served at the House which allows her and Jeff to refrain from possible exposure to COVID-19 at a public grocery store or restaurant.
Jenna does look forward to the day when she’ll be able to bring Laikyn’s sisters to the House to show them where they’ve been staying. “We’ll be up here for appointments. Maybe they’ll have restrictions lifted. I do think one day down the road, hopefully, we’ll get to show them where we’ve stayed because right now, they can’t picture where we’ve stayed,” said Jenna. One thing’s for sure, she added, the family is certain to keep supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities now that it’s so much a part their family. “We have always been supporters and we’ll be supporters for life because you don’t realize how much it’s appreciated and needed until you’re faced with it. I had two perfect pregnancies and went into pre-term labor with her and it came out of the blue. You never know when your going to be faced with needing something.”