Emily the Grape

As some parents know and some parents can only imagine, having one child born prematurely is stressful and very scary. The long hospitalizations that many times are required and the complications that arise can be mind-numbing. Having to go through this once was hard enough for me and my husband Kyle, but when our second child was also premature, knowing what we would be facing was overwhelming.

Alanna and her baby brother, Maxwell were both born prematurely, complications developed requiring hospitalization. It was a very difficult and stressful time. Each time the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House was there for us.

I first stayed at the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House in 2011 when my daughter Alanna was born. She was born 11 weeks early weighing 3lbs. 8oz. Alanna developed breathing issues and was hospitalized in the NICU (Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for 2 ½ months.

My second stay at the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House was in August 2015 when my son Maxwell was born 8 weeks early. Maxwell was 4lbs. 5oz. at birth. We encountered typical preemie obstacles while in the NICU. Max had frequent oxygen desaturations and failed his initial car seat challenge.

The Ronald McDonald House was an absolute blessing for my family. It was my safety net- a stress free place for me to rest, heal, maintain some normalcy for my daughter, and most importantly allowed me to be at the hospital for each of my son’s feedings.

img_6674It was during my second stay at the Ronald McDonald House that I truly understood what staying at the RMH meant for Alanna, who was 4 at the time and also staying with me. The Ronald McDonald House allowed Alanna to be a kid, she played with the staff, volunteers and other guests. As with most children, the Fisher-Price Play Space was a favorite spot for Alanna, but nothing really sums up what the Ronald McDonald House gave to Alanna like the story of “Emily the Grape”.

Alanna loved spending time in the kitchen with the volunteers, helping them cook and being the perfect little assistant. It all started one morning, when Alanna was in the kitchen and found a grape on the counter from a fruit salad that was being made. She took the grape and named the grape Emily. Al, one of the volunteers and Alanna together decided that “Emily the Grape” needed a place to stay, so off to the workshop they went, where they carved a bed complete with sheets and a blanket for Emily. Emily’s name was written on the bed so there would be no question of who that bed was made specifically for. Emily, safely tucked in her bed, lived on the kitchen counter for the 6 weeks of our stay.

When we returned home, “Emily the Grape”, now “Emily the Raisin” was moved to a place of honor in Sally Vincent, the Executive Director’s office and remained there until Emily recently moved back home with Alanna and now resides safely on Alanna’s bedroom shelf.

img_6676Staying at the Ronald McDonald House was a savior for me. The greatest benefit of staying at the Ronald McDonald House is having a safe place to stay with my family in close proximity to the hospital. By staying close by, I was able to go back and forth to the hospital for my children’s feedings. I really believe that this time with my daughter and son bonding with them and feeding them, is one of the reasons that today Alanna (now age 5) and Maxwell (now age 9 months) are both so happy and healthy.

When asked why she named her grape Emily, Alanna proudly replies, “Just because!”

– Kristen Marvin