Mom Shared Emotional Story of Her Son’s Medical Journey and Staying at Ronald McDonald House During Fundraiser

Woman stands with microphone in front of other women standing behind her.

Editor’s Note: The following is a rough transcript of the presentation by Allison Winter in her own words as given to those gathered for our fundraiser at Easton Town Center, Paint the Town Center Red, 4 months ago To watch the video captured by a member of the audience, click here.

Ronald McDonald House has been so good to my family in the last eight months.
My husband and I are celebrating our year fifth anniversary this year, and, in that time, we built our careers, traveled together got great jobs, and bought a new house on November 18, 2022. We welcomed our newest family addition, a boy named Donald. We call him Donnie for short because he’s named after my grandpa, great-grandpa, and dad. Welcoming Donnie has been nothing like we imagined. Not typical but we’re so blessed he’s here with us and we love him beyond measure. At my 20-week scan, we were told that he was measuring pretty small, but there was really nothing to be too concerned about at this point. The next scan came at 24 weeks, and we were told that he was severely small, less than one-tenth tall and the hopes we had for this baby kind of vanished. My umbilical cord wasn’t functioning properly from the day I was admitted to the hospital until about 3 1/2 weeks later he started struggling in utero, and I needed to have a C-section. He was born at 20 weeks gestation in Saginaw, Michigan where me and his dad were both born and raised. He was 12 1/2 inches 12 oz. That was bigger than the scan estimated, and we were elated.
He was a small but otherwise healthy baby. Then, when he was almost 2 months old, he was only four pounds. He was airlifted to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor where he had life-saving medical care due to pneumonia. The doctors prepared us for the worst but still gave us hope. For us, his parents, it seemed like we were running out of options for Donnie and I started to question whether he was going to make it. Then one of the doctors came to us and she spoke very highly of a hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and explained that they had been learning a lot from a unit there about lung disease.
Lung disease was still very misunderstood and even maybe risky to set up a ventilator. I’ll never forget the doctor’s words before she started pushing the buttons on it and she said this is either going to work or it’s not going to work at all. To everyone’s surprise, it worked, and he was able to breathe again. He woke up and smiled at us, within a few hours it was absolutely amazing. Don slowly recovered, and we began to worry. We discussed getting a tracheostomy and it became apparent that he was not going to be able to live a life without a ventilator. At least not for the first couple of years of his life.
His prognosis now is that he will grow out of his lung disease. It will just take time. A lot of time. This is all because of damage because of pneumonia. A lot of people think that the trach is a bad thing, but it gave him the possibility of living a normal life, giving him the freedom to be our baby. He can crawl. He can sit up. He can taste food. Eventually, he’ll be able to eat. He’ll be able to do almost everything a normal baby can do.
Through all this, my husband and I and our parents have had a place to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. It’s safe clean, and friendly at the Ronald McDonald House. In Ann Arbor, which was an hour’s drive from our home, this had been the hardest thing we had ever been through. We did this for months. We were wondering what was going to happen to Donnie, but we had a place to stay. It was outside the children’s hospital.
Doctors continued to follow up with us at the University of Michigan. They were learning from the children’s hospital here and spoke very highly of the unit here in Columbus. It’s a specialized unit for BPD, which we used to call chronicling disease. However, Donald was not as stable as we all hoped after getting a trach. So, the doctors at the University of Michigan encouraged us to transfer him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital to get the highest level of care.
So, on June 1, we came to the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus and Donald was transferred here to Nationwide Children’s. We didn’t have to question whether we could make this work for our family. We would not have been able to do this without knowing that we were going to get the best care for our baby and not without the Ronald McDonald House. I’m not sure it would not be possible without them and all your contributions and donations. We would’ve probably had to have considered selling our dream home and maybe moving here. Honestly, I don’t want to know what it would look like if the Ronald McDonald House wasn’t here for us. I’m incredibly grateful and blessed but I don’t have to worry about that.
We have been here for three months now, and Donnie is doing fantastic now. He just got his tube out and his two bottom teeth. We spend every day together playing, trying new foods, and waiting for his dad to visit us on weekends because he still working in Michigan. Donnie has not been this healthy and happy his whole life because the unit here in Columbus knows exactly what he needs.
The Ronald McDonald House has helped me to start kind of feeling like myself again I can do mundane tasks like laundry, clean my room at the House, read, or just relax. I just really can’t tell you how grateful we are as a family for your contributions to the McDonald House and I’m really honored and proud to stand here and tell you, my story. This charity affects so many people and families who are going through different things, and it’s a beautiful charity. It helps the world be a better place and a happier place. I will always donate, and I look forward to the days when I can bring Donnie and we can volunteer and share amazing stories about all the amazing people who showed us just such love, hospitality, and generosity during the most uncertain time of our lives.