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Darby's Story

I was just 26 weeks and 3 days pregnant when my water broke. Off to the hospital we went, where I was admitted. The decision was made to take me by ambulance to the Ottawa General Hospital. Strangely I knew that Darby, my unborn child, was going to be ok. What I didn’t know or expect was the journey we were about to embark upon.

I was on strict bed rest and told to do as little as possible, since the longer Darby stayed in the womb the better.  We were lucky because the biggest medical concern at this point was his lungs. For the next 8 days I had contractions on and off.  On day 8 of being in the hospital I knew it was time! Darby was born by way of C Section and weighed just 2.45 pounds. 

We got to meet him about an hour after he was born.  The staff wheeled him into my recovery room in his incubator. He was perfect! He was strong and aside from being premature, there seemed to be no further complications. 

Unfortunately, on his second day, for no known medical reason, his kidneys shut down and stopped working. He remained in kidney failure for the next 5 days. He was transferred to CHEO. We met with the doctor at CHEO, who told us that if Darby’s kidneys didn’t start working that he would not live more than a week.  Different medications were tried and still his kidneys did not work.

We knew at this point it was going to be a long ride and decided to explore our options with regards to accommodations.  I knew about Ronald McDonald House because my younger brother had significant medical issues related to his heart and I remember spending a lot of time there when I was young. My husband Dillon and I along with our other three children walked over to Ronald McDonald House to see if they could help. We were welcomed with open arms and a room was available for us the very next day.  I felt at home and accepted the moment I walked into the house.    


On day 5 of Darby’s young life, we met with another doctor who explained that there was a valve in the heart called a PDA and which is supposed to close before a baby is born.  Because Darby was premature, his had not closed, so it was pumping his blood away from his organs.  Although  the doctor was not certain that surgery would work, it was his only chance. Darby’s surgery was    scheduled on day 6 of his life.                                                                   

The surgery was a success!  However, there was a complication and as a result one of his vocal cords was paralyzed, a common occurrence with this surgery. The next four months would prove to be quite a fight.  Different medications were tried, his kidneys shut down multiple times and he quit breathing too many times.         

Ronald McDonald House became my home during those months and my husband and our children’s on weekends.  I cannot even begin to describe the appreciation I have for the house. During the most difficult time of our lives, we did not have to worry about where we would stay or about going broke over accommodations. I also appreciate the lasting bonds I have made with the other parents who had sick children. 

The Ronald McDonald House staff provide an unbelievably supportive environment. Often, during my stay, I would find renewed strength after a conversation with one of the staff or one of the other parents.  It allowed me and my family to have a place where we felt like we were at home. 


I will be forever grateful to Ronald Mc Donald House. I am unsure how my family would have gotten through this experience without them!  Darby is now three and a half years old and has been officially diagnosed with Renal Tubular Dysgenesis, a very rare disease. However, he continues to perplex all medical professionals since he is doing so amazing!           

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