On July 30, 2018, Kevin and Aimee-Leih Manuel had a hugely unexpected surprise. Their son was born six weeks prematurely while they were on a road trip from B.C. visiting family in Rocky Mountain House.
“The surgeon said ‘you’re going to have your baby today’ and we certainly weren’t ready,” Kevin says. “You do what you have to do…the surgery took place that afternoon, the C-section happened, and our lives changed.”
Holden Dillon Manuel was born weighing four pounds and three ounces.
“Right from the get-go he was having trouble breathing,” says Kevin. “They had to incubate him and get him on oxygen support…he stayed in the isolette for three weeks. We were in the NICU for the entire month of August.”
The Manuels were immediately given the option to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, which was a blessing for them being out-of-province and with family being over an hour away.
“We were welcomed with open arms,” Kevin recalls. “And the best part about the Ronald McDonald House was that they were there for you before you even asked for it.”
Kevin and Aimee spent long days at the hospital, from early in the morning until late at night, spending time with their son. One night the staff at the House sent them out on a ‘date night’ with a donor gift card.
“The staff were amazing,” he says. “Having the compassion or just being able to recognize that we needed a date night, that we needed to do something different rather than going to the hospital and back every day.”
“Without having someone that’s compassionate and genuinely cares about you, what you’re going through is just going to be that much harder,” Kevin says.
Kevin and Aimee knew by the end of the first week of their stay that they wanted to give back to the House.
Kevin works as Director of Marketing for Revelstoke Mountain Resort in B.C. He and Aimee generously donated a ski package valued at $2,500 for the House to use in fundraising efforts.
“We’re not done giving back because we want Holden to know this part of the story, too.”
Holden is now almost six months and is happy and healthy, according to Kevin. He’s over 13 pounds and thriving.
“When you’re there, it’s that much easier not to think about home,” Kevin says. “When you’re in that situation, Ronald McDonald House lets you just be there for each other, first and foremost, and then for your child.”