Growing with Evangeline

Märit Williams Photography

Evangeline means good news. For mom and dad, Karissa and Ryan, the good news had complications…and came three months early.

“Karissa was being seen for a routine prenatal appointment when she was diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia,” Ryan said. “They transported her to Rochester by helicopter.”

“It was scary.”

The result: Evangeline was born three months premature. She suffered from Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) — a hole in her heart — and Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH). And she was at risk for many other things: spontaneous brain bleeding, gastrointestinal complications, eye malformations and loss of vision, cerebral palsy, and more. Because of these complications and their effect on her lungs, Evangeline was placed on oxygen.

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But as she grew and reached her original due date, their concerns began to fade.

“She has not had any major complications,” Ryan said. “She has good vision, her gut and stomach work as they should, and she does not show any negative brain functioning symptoms.”

Evangeline is no longer on oxygen and her ASD — which will eventually be closed by catheter or open-heart surgery — does not require medication. Currently, her heart condition “causes her to tire out faster than other children.” But once it is closed, her endurance will be “the same as any other child.”

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“Evangeline has monthly follow-up appointments with different specialists and will need surgery in the coming years, but her future is very bright,” said Ryan. “She is strong and healthy and is further developing her personality.”

“She brightens our lives each and every day.”

When Ryan and Karissa arrived in Rochester, they were somewhat familiar with Ronald McDonald House Charities, but the more they learned about the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester…the more they were amazed.

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“Living through an acutely traumatic experience — premature delivery of our daughter — and a stressful situation — 100-day NICU stay — made the House even more important,” Ryan said. “The people were kind, genuine, caring, and present.”

Among those people were volunteers and staff, who Ryan said, “helped keep him grounded and reminded him how blessed they were as a family.”

The House navigated uncertain times by expanding its services outside the House. Children and families received activity bags and food bags for convenience during extended periods away from the House.

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“Evangeline lived in an incubator for many weeks,” said Ryan. “Activity bags had books we could read to her — it helped us feel more connected. We would miss lunch orders, so we utilized food bags and other fresh food items available in the House.”

“It all made a difference.”

The House is supported by many local businesses and individuals. Guest rooms, in-House activities, meals, food bags and activity bags, gas station, grocery store and restaurant gift cards — all are available because of their generous support.

“Thank you,” Ryan said. “You make an impact of a magnitude that I have never experienced. You provide for families who are suffering deeply. You provide comfort for those who desperately need it. I cannot imagine how drastically more difficult my family’s experience would have been without your generosity. Truly…thank you.”

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“Whether it is time, finances, skills — whatever help you provide blesses those who cannot prepare for the road they are traveling that led to Mayo Clinic and the Ronald McDonald House. Please continue to help the kids who are being called to rise up during the most challenging experiences of their lives. Please continue to help the mothers and fathers, who can do nothing but read their sons and daughters a book while they fight for their lives.”

“Please continue to support the House.”

Evangeline and her parents will visit Rochester less frequently as she grows, but they look forward to stopping by their home away from home…the Ronald McDonald House.

Märit Williams Photography
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