Parker O’Doherty was born on December 8, 2013, in Fort McMurray, AB, 108 days before his due date. His parents, Chris and Crystal, were offered little hope that their baby would survive. In a twist of fate, Crystal’s gestational diabetes increased Parker’s weight, which proved to be his saving grace. He was born at 2 lbs 2 oz.
Doctors in Fort McMurray contacted the NICU at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton to arrange for Parker’s transport. Chris joined Parker for the journey, while Crystal stayed behind for further care. Crystal and Kathleen, her daughter, joined Chris and Parker in Edmonton the next day.
The family’s hospital social worker recommended that they reach out to Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern Alberta. They wanted to be as close to the hospital as possible, and were resistant to the suggestion. For two weeks, Chris and Crystal stayed in a hotel and Kathleen lived with an aunt in Edmonton. After some more gentle persuasion from the social worker, and in light of the reality of the length of their journey yet to come, they reached out to RMHCNA.
They arrived at the House just before Christmas, and were relieved and overwhelmed with how it instantly felt like home. “The meal program was amazing. The dinners gave me an extra hour or two with my baby every time. That extra time meant that I could hold my baby more often and for longer, as I could only hold Parker when the medical team was available to help. It meant the world to Parker and to me, and I believed it saved his life,” says Crystal.
The next five months were spent going back and forth from hospital while Parker grew. The House provided comfort for the family. Chris commuted back and forth from Fort McMurray for work, Crystal learned to care for her special needs son and Kathleen made friendships at the House.
The family is now home and enjoying their new normal. Parker is growing and thriving, and he even surprised his mom by learning to give kisses in time for Mother’s Day. But their transition home is an adjustment to care for Parker’s needs outside the hospital. He still depends on oxygen while sleeping. They fully expected that their departure from RMHCNA would mean an end to the House’s support. Instead, they feel it just as strongly as they did in the hardest part of Parker’s journey and visit the House every time appointments bring them back to Edmonton.