Ohio Family Grateful for Gift of Togetherness During Baby’s Hospitalization in a Pandemic

Ashley and Ben Watercutter are from the small town of Minster, about 100 miles West of Columbus. They found themselves making their way to Ronald McDonald House in August where they would stay while their baby girl was in the NICU recently. The family is home now, but wanted to express their thankfulness for our House and tell us about the gift of togetherness they received from our chapter because of the support we get from donors and supporters like you. The following is a Q&A email exchange with Ben so we could share with you their journey.

Q: Can you tell us about the diagnosis that put your child and yourselves on this journey?

A: Charlotte was born 3 months early at just 1lb 9oz. As she continued to get older it was evident that her breathing was not getting better and she was diagnosed with Severe Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD) due to her prematurity.

Q: How did you feel when you looked at what might lay ahead for your child and you?

A: There was and is a lot of uncertainty, Charlotte was born right at the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic. We have taken everything in stride and are trying to make the best of the cards we have been dealt.

Q: Can you tell us more about the path you’ve taken along the way – doctors, hospitals, specialist, etc.?

A: Charlotte was born the day before Easter Sunday, after Ashley had been in the hospital for the previous week for preeclampsia. She was delivered via cesarean section. Charlotte spent the first 3 months of her life in the NICU at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. She received great care while there, but it became evident that Charlotte’s BPD was not getting and better. We were referred to Nationwide Children’s Hospital and their BPD unit. We made the decision to transfer Charlotte here.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you were facing?

A: Our biggest challenge we faced prior to coming here was logistics. NCH is a 2 hour drive from our house. We wanted Charlotte to have the best care possible and we have had to make many sacrifices to accommodate this. After getting here the toughest decision we had to make was approving a trach and g-tube surgery. We were hoping to avoid this but knew it was a possibility. Ultimately we made the decision to proceed as it provides the opportunity for Charlotte to continue to thrive while her lungs continue to develop and grow.

Q: What’s the outlook for the future?

A: Charlotte needs time. A child’s lungs continue to grow for years. As she continues to grow new healthy lung tissue her condition will improve. The hope over the next few months is to get her to a point where she can come home and continue her journey outside the hospital. She is likely to come home on breathing support and we will continue to work with NCH to improve her condition.

Q: How did you find out about the House? How did you feel when you learned about the Ronald McDonald House?

A: NCH referred us to RMH, we were aware of RMH and what it offers prior to this experience. We are very thankful for the RMH.

Q: What surprised you about the house?

A: The house is very impressive and much larger and more accommodating than we could have imagined. We were given a tour of the facility and showed our room. Everything is very clean and the staff is very helpful. Unfortunately we are here in the Covid-19 Pandemic so a lot of the activities and special rooms in the house are not an option. Even without that part of the experience, the RMH is better than we could have imagined. Ben has been able to work in our room during the day and then spend the evenings with Ashley and Charlotte at the hospital.

Q: What has having the House as a resource meant to you? To your family? To your other children? Is there a particular part of the House that you found beneficial while you’ve had to be here in Columbus?

A: A place to live within walking distance of the hospital has been great. Without this as an option we could not afford to stay in Columbus and see our daughter everyday. We are also very thankful for the meals that have been provided. It takes a great burden off of the day not having to worry about meals.

Q: Is there a particular moment or special memory that you have experienced here at the house?

A: We met and got to know another couple here at RMH. It was nice to have someone to talk to about what we are going through.

Q: How has staying at the House enabled you to provide the best care for your child?

A: At least one if not both of us are able to be with her every day. It is very important to us that we can be involved with her care and development. We could not imagine how incredibly difficult life would be without RMH. It would be an emotional, physical, and financial struggle.

Q: What would you want other people to know about RMHC? If you were to be speaking face-to-face with all the donors and volunteers who help fund the house, what would you say?

A: RMHC provides stability and a safe place during the most stressful days of parents lives. Any money donated to RMH is directly helping families in need. It is a great resource for families in need.