Finding a Forever Family - Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth
Mari and Tiffany family

Finding a Forever Family

Imagine being in a foreign country away from your family and loved ones. Imagine being 7,688 miles deployed in the hot desert of Kuwait. Imagine being in a different time zone 8 hours ahead and waking up in the middle of the night with a phone call that would change your life forever. Now imagine if this was your reality as was the case for Tiffany.

Tiffany, a Senior Airman in the Air Force, received a phone call on May 20, 2:30 a.m. during her tour in Kuwait. Her 22 month-old daughter, Mariyanah, had been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

“I was devastated,” Tiffany said. She explained that Mariyanah had many health related issues leading up to her diagnosis. She had suffered from a double ear infection, strep throat, and little red bumps all over her body.  “Mari and her dad made several trips to the doctor to see what those little red bumps were.” The nurse at Dr. J’s Express Care Center in Abilene identified the little red bumps as Petechiae-pinpoint, round spots that appear on the skin as a result of bleeding-and told Mari’s dad, Martez, he needed to take her to the Emergency Room immediately.

“When they got to the ER, they were told the red bumps were simply just bug bites and were sent home with antibiotics,” Tiffany said. “The next day she had a bump in her groin area and the doctor told them it was an ant bite that had turned into MRSA, also known as Staph Infection. They cut it open to do a wound culture on it and Mari was given antibiotics and sent home.”

After that ER trip, Mari developed a limp in her right leg, and had an appointment on Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas with her pediatrician to do blood work. The pediatrician did blood tests to look for irregularities and found that Mari’s white blood cell count was too high.  The doctor informed Martez that they needed to go to Hendrick Medical Center immediately.  The doctor at Hendrick then had Mari and her dad taken to Cook Children’s Medical Center by ambulance.

After Tiffany received the call in the middle of the night, it only took her 36 hours to get back to the U.S.  “The process was fairly quick. My dad got hold of Red Cross and they contacted my First Sergeant in Kuwait. The paperwork was started, and I was notified at 5:45 p.m. on May 20 that my flight was at 1:30 a.m. on May 21.”

Despite the quick turnaround, Tiffany was extremely anxious to be with Mari. “The flight seemed like forever. I landed in Germany and had a four-hour layover. I remember crying in the airport because I just wanted to get home to my baby.”

Tiffany landed at 2:20 p.m. on May 21 and got to the hospital at 3:30 p.m. Mari did not know that her mother was back until she called Martez on Face Time. “I said ‘Hi, Mari,’ when I walked into her room. Mari looked at me and I put us both in the picture on Face Time and said ‘Mommy is home,” Tiffany says. ” Mari looked at her dad, and looked at me. She hugged me and said ‘Hi, mommy!’ My heart melted all over again.”

“We spent a month at Cook Children’s, until we were released to come to the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth,” Tiffany says. She went on to say that the House has helped out in many ways that she couldn’t express in words during this hard time. “The House has been such a blessing to my family, my parents, sister, and nephew who stayed here multiple times before we were released.” She was happy to have the support of her family during Mari’s treatments.

“If I could let any family know what the RMHFW means to us, I would have to say the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth is a loving family that made me and my family a part of a bigger family home away from home because they took us in under their roof like any family would, ” Tiffany says. “The House made us a part of a forever family and home that we will never forget!”

All together Mari has a total of 2 ½ years of treatment.  Mari will have spinal taps weekly for a month. To make sure the Leukemia does not come back, she will also be doing chemo four days a week and bone marrow extractions.