Natasha Miller, an RCMP officer, and her husband Ryan, a firefighter, have rescued and saved many children back home in the Yukon. When their baby girl Mackenzie was born with an undiagnosed heart condition on September 2, 2013, their roles were reversed and they had to rely on medical professionals to save their daughter.
Natasha’s pregnancy and delivery were normal. Mackenzie arrived at a healthy seven pounds four ounces, but started turning blue five days later. Without a diagnosis, Mackenzie and Natasha were airlifted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital, and Ryan jumped on the next flight to Edmonton. When they arrived at the hospital, Natasha learned that there was something wrong with her daughter’s heart.
When the Miller’s social worker suggested they stay at RMHCNA, Ryan wanted to decline so other families who needed it could use the room. Their social worker looked at Ryan and replied, “You are now that family.” They had gone from working alongside social workers to needing one.
Ryan and Natasha checked into the House and were welcomed by the smell of homemade cinnamon rolls, cookies and brownies. Natasha and Mackenzie felt right at home.
“This has slowed everything down, every single day. When you have begged for just one more moment with your baby, you stop and are present. If a text goes unanswered for an hour because you are playing peek-a-boo, so be it,” says Natasha.
The surgery was a success, and the family was able to return home. Just before Mackenzie’s first birthday, they had to return to Edmonton for her second open heart surgery. Once again Mackenzie made a full recovery and is back home with her family.
“Nobody plans to be here in pediatric intensive care. It’s something you see on Grey’s Anatomy and is all wrapped up nicely in 45 minutes,” says Natasha. “This saved us right now. There was a night when another mom and I were both drawing medications from our refrigerators in the community kitchen in the middle of the night. We shared a glance, and then a chuckle, realizing that we were the commercial.
“We have enabled ourselves to accept help and care when it is offered, and we spend meaningful family time before a surgery or procedure. This is an environment where Mackenzie can heal and grow in a safe and normal environment. She can just be a kid. She has taken her first steps here, laughed her first laugh and attended her first NHL game. You don’t know how much you need Ronald McDonald House Charities® until you depend on it.”