As the mother of four girls, I was so excited that one of the twins I was expecting was a boy. When we learned there was a blockage in his urethra causing major kidney damage and putting our unborn son in danger, we were scared but determined to find a way to help him. We pushed doctors to try everything to help our son Matthew so he and his twin sister Callia could develop as much as possible in utero. They drained and later inserted a shunt into Matthew's bladder, allowing us to wait until our miracle babies were 31 weeks to deliver. That made all the difference!

As we prepared for a long stay in the NICU over an hour away from our home, the hospital referred us to the Ronald McDonald House of Loma Linda, CA. We toured the House and met the wonderful staff and volunteers; we would be just minutes from the NICU.

Matthew and Callia were born on July 1, 2014. Thankfully, other than being premature, Callia suffered no complications. She spent two months in the NICU growing and getting stronger so she could come home. Matthew proved to be a fighter. With collapsed lungs,
pulmonary hypertension, three brain hemorrhages, and in end-stage renal failure, he wasn't expected to survive his first day. Things looked bleak, but he improved day by day. 

Matthew spent five months in the NICU. Without the support of the House, we wouldn’t have been able to be present for every moment of our miracle. Ronald McDonald Houses have lots of experience helping families in our situation since more than 40% of the families they serve have children in the NICU. In the early days, the comfortable bed, home-cooked meals, and good coffee kept me going. As the weeks and months wore on, the volunteers, staff, and other NICU moms staying at the House became a wonderful, supportive community.

We are so grateful to RMHC for helping us stay strong for Matthew and Callia. After enduring eight surgeries, Matthew is doing amazingly well today. He has lots of challenges ahead of him, but we feel so blessed to be celebrating his first birthday. 

Recently, we brought a big team of family and friends to the Walk for Kids supporting the Ronald McDonald House of Loma Linda. It felt great to raise money and show our appreciation. We feel blessed to know RMHC will continue to be there for us no matter what challenges Matthew may face. 

With love and gratitude,

Angelina Castleberry