In February of 2011, much to her character today, Chloe Ducharme was ready to come into the world and she wasn’t waiting. Chloe was born premature with a condition known as Non Immune Hydrops Fetalis, basically fluid was filling up in her body and crushing her organs. The mortality rate is 70-90 percent, Candace was even presented with the option of terminating her pregnancy. Not an option for the Ducharme’s, Chloe was born premature at 31 weeks for doctors to have a fighting chance at saving her.
After being delivered, Chloe needed constant medical attention and was placed at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. Her family, from Bonnyville, was devastated, there was no way mom, Candace was going back home without her baby, but how could they manage to stay in the City? The hotel costs, eating out, and just the stress of living out of a suitcase would’ve surely taken too big of a toll on the family. Just as the reality of their situation was sinking in, a social worker with the Ronald McDonald House showed up and quite literally, as Candace puts it, saved them from the crushing effects of having a sick child.
“The social worker at the hospital found us the room, and luckily, we were able to move in then,” Candace explains Chloe was born February 15th and the family was able to get a room in early March. Chloe would spend 91 days in the hospital. “We were there until May 16th, just over two months.” Not only was it vital for Chloe to be monitored, at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, she also had a number of surgeries and tubes inside her body to allow for draining of the excess fluid that had built up during pregnancy.
I will say this, the Ronald McDonald House saved my daughter’s life. Without the house, I wouldn’t have been able to spend as much time with Chloe as I did; because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. My husband still had to work, we still had bills, a mortgage, and another kid. The doctor’s at the Stollery and the Ronald McDonald House are who I credit for that crazy little girl! – Candace Ducharme
“The Ronald McDonald House is amazing,” Candace fully believes if not for the house her family would not have been able to make it through the three months Chloe was in hospital. “The rooms are similar to a hotel room, but so much more. They even supply you with a computer. They have a huge playroom downstairs, a park right outside.” The house took into consideration a lot of families have more than one child, so they allow for things for the siblings to do; as well as, offer tutoring and classes, so siblings can stay on track with schooling.
“There a big kitchen, so you don’t always have to eat out. Nobody wants to worry about getting takeout every night, it’s already expensive as it is, when you’re not at home.” The Ronald McDonald House relies on donations and fundraising initiative; such as the annual McHappy Day, which falls on May 4th (today) and the Ronald McDonald Run, on May 7th (Saturday). Families can stay at the house for only $12 a day. “I wouldn’t have been able to stay in Edmonton, otherwise.”
Unfortunately, live continues, Candace explains, “the sad part about having a sick kid is you still have bills, you still have a mortgage.” Chloe’s older brother, Xavier, only a toddler when his sister was born, didn’t stay at the house with his mom. Candace spent a lot of time at the hospital and felt although the house was fine for her son, the hospital was not the place for a toddler. Candace’s husband, Mich, had to continue working to support the family. He would visit on his days off with son Xavier.
The house was completely comfortable and much like home offered security, in knowing she was not alone. “What was nicest about the Ronald McDonald House, it wasn’t just a place to stay; when you get a hotel room you feel like you’re just in a room. The Ronald McDonald House they had a nice living room, a nice sitting room; the feeling of home anyway. I didn’t feel like I was trapped in a hotel.” Candace says she bonded with other families that were at the house, “I would stay at the hospital until midnight, most days. When I would come home, I would go downstairs into the kitchen and there would be a family sitting across from me, almost nightly. You can’t get that in a hotel room.”
At the Ronald McDonald House, everybody there felt like family. – Candace Ducharme
“Everybody has a sick kid, we’re all going through the same thing. So if I’m crying the person across from me is going to understand why I’m crying. Everybody is there to support each other, because we’re all there for the same reason.” Candace stays in contact with some of the people she met while staying at the Ronald McDonald House, “it’s that feeling you get of knowing that you have somebody there to lift your spirits because you have somebody who is going through the exact same thing.”
Excluding a broken arm a couple months ago, Chloe today is a healthy five year and somewhat a medical mystery. She has to get regular checkups to monitor her condition, because doctors never discovered a reason for the Non Immune Hydrops Fetalis. “She has to go see an ear, nose, and throat specialist,” Candace explains there will be appointments in the next few weeks. “We’ve done numerous tests on her, because the condition she has, there’s a 70-90 percent mortality rate; babies don’t usually survive. Because she did survive, doctors still can’t find the underlying reason for what caused it. Sometimes they’re able to and sometimes they’re not. With her, they still haven’t been able to find it.”
Today is McHappy Day, Candace and Chloe will be giving back to the Ronald McDonald House by working at the Cold Lake location. Candace will also be volunteering at the Ronald McDonald Run on Saturday. For more information on the run visit .