A New Heart for Gavin

Gavin Gillies was born on May 10, 2016, with a heart defect. At 21 days old his medical journey began when doctors fitted him with a pacemaker. This marks sweet Gavin’s journey through heart failure, and his family’s journey of keeping their son close at Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern Alberta.

Candace, Gavin, & Matt spending time together at the hospital.

Candace and Matt were thrilled when their son Gavin was born, and they would do anything to support their sweet little boy. Gavin was able to stay at his home in Calgary for seven months before he had to be hospitalized. He was intubated as soon as he got to the Alberta Children’s Hospital, and three days later doctors saw a window of opportunity to fly Gavin to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton. Candace and Matt heard words that no parent should have to hear; doctors feared that Gavin may not make it through the flight to Edmonton. Matt and Candace had to make the longest drive of their lives, thinking of their son in the sky above them.

The Gillies family first stayed at the House when Gavin was born, so they were familiar with the Ronald McDonald House. They couldn’t predict what their son’s medical journey would look like, but they felt like they had a support system at the House, with shoulders to lean on and people who understood what it was like to have a child in the hospital.

In the next six months Gavin survived eight surgeries and two artificial hearts, knowing that only a heart transplant could save his life. Each setback was a struggle for Candace and Matt. During the week Matt had to be back in Calgary, but he came down as often as he could to be with his family and the time they spent together on weekends was precious.

Gavin smiling for the camera.

The journey to the transplant list was difficult. Candace remembers four times that they almost lost Gavin, and she is so thankful to have him here with her today. He came back so strong after each set back, and after spending 109 days waiting for a new heart transplant Candace received a call that there was a heart for Gavin. She ran down the stairs from her room at the House and spoke to Gil in Guest Services, sharing that Gavin was in the best shape of his life and that doctors believed this was his best chance at a new life.

While Gavin healed in the hospital, the House became more than a home to his parents. Candace knew each night she had a warm bed waiting for her after a long day at the hospital, but it was more than just the walls of the House that helped Candace through the scariest journey of her life. Each Meals That Mend group gave Candace time to sit down and enjoy a plate of food. She loved meeting each person who gave of their time to support all the families in the House, and of course she loved gushing about Gavin and sharing photos too!

Gavin showing off his sweet smile.

Candace would come back from the hospital and chat to staff in the front office, updating them on Gavin’s journey. Living at the House, Candace met other families, often visiting in the kitchen or library, making it easier to be away from her husband, and Matt knew that she was surrounded with support.

To the donors who sustain the House Candace says, “You are very, very important to all us families who stay in the House. From the bottom of my heart and soul thank you for what you do.”

One of Candace’s most memorable moments while staying at the House was going to the Garth Brooks concert thanks to a generous supporter of the House. She was amazed to see just how committed the Edmonton community was to the families at RMHCNA, and she had such a fun night out!

The Gillies family goes home after spending 156 nights at the Ronald McDonald House.

On June 22, 2017, the Gillies family made their journey back home to Calgary after staying at the House for 156 nights. Gavin now comes to Edmonton for checkups, and Candace makes sure to touch base with the staff and volunteers at the House, knowing that there are so many people that love Gavin and wish her family nothing but a happy and healthy future together.

Your generous commitment to supporting RMHCNA impacts the lives of families. By donating $25 today you provide a safe, warm, and welcoming home for families like Gavin’s.

When you stand up and support RMHCNA, you give hope when it’s needed most. Act today to support families at the Ronald McDonald House® in Edmonton.


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