Precious Opal and Owen

Mona Lisa Shutters Photography & Venue

Parents rarely feel prepared for twins. They feel even less prepared when the twins are born four months early.

Ashley and DJ were ecstatic when they found out she was pregnant. They were even more ecstatic when they found out she was having twins. But their excitement quickly turned into anxiety and fear, as she started having complications and was told to expect pre-term labor.

“I was only 23 weeks pregnant, and they said I needed to reduce stress on my body,” Ashley said. “Two weeks later…I started having contractions.”

The hospital near their hometown does not have the necessary support for babies born before 34 weeks, so she was flown by helicopter to Mayo Clinic in Rochester. It was the beginning of a 100-night journey for their family.

“I was told it would be pre-term labor, but we didn’t fully realize how early it would be,” said Ashley. “Doctors hoped we would make it to 30 weeks, but we knew it was unlikely.”

“Our babies were coming a lot earlier than we were expecting.”A5

Ashley was placed on a magnesium drip and given steroid shots to help the babies’ brain development and lung growth. There was no progress for a few days—they simply monitored the babies’ hearts and Ashley’s vitals. But at 25 weeks and four days, she needed an emergency Cesarean-section. Opal and Owen were born, both weighing less than two pounds.

They would need to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for a while, and in the hospital until their due date (at least). Both were on oxygen, feeding tubes, lines for nutritional assistance, and bilirubin monitoring. But both were in stable condition and improving.

Ashley spent three nights in the hospital, and her and DJ stayed in Rochester for a couple weeks before he returned home for work. When he did, they decided to find a better option for Ashley; they decided to ask about the Ronald McDonald House.

“I was shocked; I was blown away,” Ashley said. “There is so much more to the House. It was more than I could have ever imagined…especially after such a difficult delivery.”

A3“Our initial visit to the House gave me so much confidence,” said DJ. “The House is so safe and secure and close to the hospital. It made me feel better about our situation.”

For the next three months, Opal and Owen overcame challenge after challenge. Both were on oxygen most of the time they were in the hospital—Opal is still on oxygen. Both suffered from hemorrhaging (brain bleeds), which required frequent ultrasounds. Both had retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disease characterized by abnormal blood vessels—Owen’s eyes improved, but Opal needed corrective surgery.

“They have made progress, but we don’t know the long-term effects of the brain bleeds,” said Ashley. “It could result in mobility or cognitive complications, but nothing is certain.”

Mona Lisa Shutters Photography & Venue

While Opal and Owen were growing in the hospital, Ashley was recovering at the Ronald McDonald House. After 12-hour days with her babies, she would return to a home-cooked meal, a House activity, and a community of support. Staff, volunteers, and other parents would check in with Ashley and ask about Opal and Owen; “it reminded me of the positives,” said Ashley.

“My experience changed my perspective,” Ashley said. “Until you experience the House firsthand, you don’t know what it means to families.”

“You are not only giving families a roof over their heads—you are giving parents access to their kids. I wouldn’t have been able to spend as much time with Opal and Owen without the generous support of the people who donate to the House.”

“And time is something you can’t put a price on.”

Opal and Owen are growing bigger and stronger every day, but they will have monthly check-ups for the foreseeable future. They will be lifelong Mayo Clinic patients…and Ronald McDonald House guests for as long as they need.


Help families like Opal and Owen’s!
Jaymeson 3

Jaymeson: Leader of the Pack

Wolves are pack animals—family-oriented and protective. When Jaymeson was diagnosed with a brain tumor…he embraced it as his spirit animal.

Img 6082

ABCs of Andrés

Andrés was adopted from Bogotá, Colombia, when he was 21 months old, but that was the least astonishing part of


Every Light for Everleigh

Every year on rare disease day, every front porch in a small Minnesota town is illuminated by purple lights…and every