162 days… that is how long the Slaughters stayed at the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth. Most of the time you could find the family with baby Georgia napping in her stroller and big sister, Carlee, running around like a ball of energy. An outsider would never guess that they had another child, Georgia’s twin, Madison Grace, at Cook Children’s on the cardiac floor.
At just one-week-old Madison was diagnosed with multiple congenital heart defects (bilateral superior vena cava, VDS, PDA, ASD, and incorrect formed hepatic veins). After complications with open-heart surgery, she also developed hypothyroidism. While Georgia was growing and getting stronger, Madison was not. So, on November 23, 2018, the Slaughter family made their first trip from San Angelo, Tx to Fort Worth. They ended up making that drive two more times. They were five hours away from home, with no family in Texas. There would’ve been no way for them to stay near Madison if it wasn’t for The Ronald McDonald House. The House made it possible for Carrie to see Madison daily, and continue to be a mother to Georgia and Carlee, and “some days just to breathe.”
It’s hard to be a mom of three in general, but with one child in the hospital, it can be overwhelming. “The staff, volunteers, and other family members were so welcoming and never made [them] feel out of place”, even when it was just Carrie and the girls. For the majority of their stay, JW (Carries Husband) had to stay in San Angelo to work. He made the trip back to Fort Worth as often as he could to see his girls. When you are at the House you soon realize that you might have arrived as a small family, but when you check-out your family grows in size. The families support, help and encourage each other. When you’re at the House you are never alone.
Madison Grace was so sick, there were some days the Slaughters weren’t sure she’d get to make the trip back to West Texas with them. It helped we were greeted with a smile daily.” “RMHFW housekeeper, Viviana, made it a point to greet Carlee every morning. Even though she speaks limited English, she wanted to make sure to say hello.” As the Slaughters stay extended, Carlee would even look for her when they were making their way to the kitchen for breakfast. “Hospital life isn’t cheap, and when you’re there for so long, it gets repetitive and no one wants to drive to eat or feels like cooking” (Carrie). The meals were a lifesaver for the Slaughters, and getting to see a friendly face was always a bonus. Carlee even got to help feed the fish. “To most that doesn’t seem like much, but when you don’t know what another day holds it means a lot.”(Carrie).
The Slaughters even spent the 2018 holiday season at the House. They were sad they weren’t home to decorate their own tree, and do their own holiday traditions, but Carlee loved walking around and looking at all the decorations. She wasn’t a fan of Santa, but they “will never forget that Christmas.” RMHFW made it possible for the Slaughters to stay together. “Not only did I get to see my baby every day, but the House made it as comfortable as possible,” Carrie says. Looking back at their time at the House, Carrie describes it as “Unity. Love. Hope. Some days I just wanted to give up, but I received so much support. So many people helped us. So many. We didn’t know them at all, but they served meals, gave gifts, smiled, etc. I want to pass that along.”