After Heather and Dallas Mielke married they were eager to grow their family in Bonnyville, AB. Heather had three children from a previous relationship and dreamed of a large family filled with love. On New Year’s Eve, just as 2011 turned to 2012, Dallas and Heather were thrilled to find out that they were expecting. However, after 18 weeks of a very hard pregnancy Heather’s water broke. She was transported to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton where medical staff did their best to save Dailen, Heather and Dallas’ son. The family was devastated when there was nothing more doctors could do.
Months later Heather was expecting again, and was again met with heartache. After another hard pregnancy the Mielkes lost their baby boy Jaxsyn. Grief took hold and the couple began to think that a child together was not in their future. After seeing a doctor, Heather had a procedure in the slightest hope of having another child, but after the surgery they had no intentions of trying to have any more children.
This is where Austin’s story begins.
Austin showing off his incredible smile.
Three years after Heather’s surgery she was feeling different and decided to take a pregnancy test. She took three more tests, proving the unbelievable: she was pregnant.
After many appointments in Edmonton, driving back and forth from Bonnyville, Heather was told to go on bed rest. Two short days after beginning bed rest she started to have intense pain in her back and chest. That night her eldest son drove her to the hospital in Bonnyville where doctors quickly transferred her to Edmonton, back to the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
When she arrived at the hospital many staff members remembered Heather. They were all cautiously happy and told Heather that they would do everything they could to save her baby. Dallas was working at a camp and rushed to Edmonton as soon as he could to be by his wife’s side. After a few days the pain subsided and Heather told Dallas to head back to work, knowing she had to remain in the hospital.
The very next day tests showed that Heather’s liver was in trouble. Doctors were worried about the baby, but they were also worried about Heather’s health. A nurse told Heather that she needed a C-section for her health and the baby’s. Heather called Dallas back to the hospital, who arrived with his parents. Just a few short hours later Heather went into surgery.
Austin was born on February 20, 2016, weighing just over one pound. Most of that day was a blur for Heather, but what she remembers most was pleading for her son to be OK and for hospital staff to do their best for Austin. Heather spent the next five days recovering in hospital, while Austin’s journey was just beginning. Austin spent over eight months in hospital healing and growing strong enough to return home.
Since his birth Austin has been diagnosed with chronic lung disease and is still on oxygen to this day. His case is very severe, but he may grow out of the condition as he gets bigger and stronger. The Mielkes are thankful that many of Austin’s medical problems could be fixed, including laser eye surgery to save his sight, as well as surgery to fix a hernia. Hopefully Austin has just one more surgery to go through which won’t happen until he is off of oxygen.
Heather, Dallas, and their entire family are thankful that Austin is getting stronger, and they are also thankful that the Ronald McDonald House could support them along Austin’s journey
Heather stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for four and a half months. The compassion, support, and love she found at the House helped her get through each day. She felt welcomed as soon as she came through the doors.
She even found some rest and relaxation while at the House, which can be hard to come by when you have a sick child. She fondly remembers seeing the Tragically Hip and taking in a hockey game thanks to donors. At the House she enjoyed facials, manicures, massages, and haircuts, all given by volunteer salon professionals through the Rejuvenate Program.
Something Heather will be eternally thankful for is the kindness shown to her whole family. Heather’s family lives in British Columbia and could not come to Edmonton when Austin was born. Heather was so thankful when the Ronald McDonald House connected her with WestJet, an RMHC partner, to fly her family to Edmonton. This is just one of the ways that the Mielke family felt the community that is the Ronald McDonald House. Donations from the community and from Ronald McDonald House partners like WestJet make long medical journeys a little more bearable for families like the Mielkes.
“The House is such a blessing to the families that walk through the doors, often in their darkest hours. We still have many appointments and they welcome us with open arms whether it be for a night or just a Day Pass or providing us with a meal. I will never forget what the Ronald McDonald House has done for my family,” says Heather.
Even though Austin’s medical journey is not over his family is thankful that they can shower him with love, knowing the Ronald McDonald House will be there to support them in Edmonton.