The Martel Family

Red Deer House

You know that feeling as a kid when you walk into the world’s coolest toy store for the first time? That’s what it was like walking into Ronald McDonald House.

Our RMH story began on March 23, 2017, when our new baby boy was born by C-section. Ben would be our fourth child and the only one born in a hospital; before him, we had always had home-births.

The night before the scheduled delivery, we packed ‘the bag’. Ben’s brother’s picked out his first sleeper and I packed enough clothing for one night’s stay, expecting to be home as soon as possible. We had it all planned out.

March 23 came and everything that I had envisioned happening…didn’t. Ben was born kicking and screaming. Those initial moments of ‘wow, we did it’ filled the room. But then, everyone went silent. Ben was no longer crying and all we could hear was low whispering in the otherwise quiet room.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses took over, doing what they do best, while I just laid there, numb, helpless and scared. The thought crept into my mind and stayed there: what if we don’t leave with our baby?

After what seemed like forever, the doctor informed us that Ben wasn’t breathing on his own and that they were taking him to the NICU, adding that he would discuss the other issue later. Looking back, I can’t imagine what Mike was feeling. While I was taken to recovery, he went to the NICU to stay with Ben and watched him lay in an incubator, hooked up to tubes and oxygen. It would be five days before we held him. We never did get to put Ben in the sleeper his brothers picked out for him.It would be a few days before we discussed the ‘other issue’. That’s when we learned Ben had Down syndrome. Guilt set in. Anxiety set in. Ben wasn’t going to be like everyone else. It was almost like morning a loss. A level of grief I had never felt before. I had always said “Thank God for making families who can cope with that because I don’t think I could do it”. But now, we are doing it. And what a blessing it’s been. I can’t begin to describe what Ben has done for our family.

While at the hospital, I was approached by a lovely NICU nurse who was part of the team looking after Ben. She handed me a little card that said Day Pass and said, “please go utilize this amazing facility”.

Man, if I could build a house, I’d make a smaller version of this one. It had everything. It was so amazing that, while we were there, we forgot about all of our worries. Ronald McDonald House is an organization I will be thankful of for the rest of my life.

At the House, there was always a shoulder to cry on. It was never a pity party but a listening ear. A warm hug when you needed it and even when you didn’t. When the weight of the world was crashing down on us, RMH picked us back up. It offered us a sense of normalcy during a time in our life that was not normal for us.

To the volunteers who bake fresh cookies every day, the ladies that made the beautiful blankets on each bed, and the families that donate their time and their money to help ease the burden of everyday tasks…to every single person who helped us during our time of need: we’re forever thankful.

Meet our Other Families