The Tanner family’s Christmas present

As part of our 30th Anniversary, we wanted to hear from past families about their experience staying at the House as well as how their child is doing now. We reached out to families through email and Facebook. The response was amazing – families from recent stays to families that had stayed almost 20 years ago shared their stories. One of the stories was from Lisa Tanner, mother of Abigail Tanner.

In 2009, at just 28 weeks pregnant with their first child, Lisa Tanner suddenly became very ill with severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Lisa’s doctors immediately life-flighted her two hours away from home to St. Luke’s Hospital in Downtown Boise, where their baby could receive the best care. The Tanner family soon met their precious Abigail.

“She weighed a little more than 2 pounds and was covered with wires and tubes to keep her tiny little body alive. It was a scary and emotional time. Here we were, brand new parents, and things just turned out so differently than we had hoped for.  

We were told that Abigail would be in the NICU until around her due date – 3 MONTHS!!! What were we going to do? We were in the first year of starting our business and my husband had to travel back home to work. All I wanted to do was to be close to my baby and to do what I could for her. The nurses told me about the Ronald McDonald House and I was so grateful when an old high school friend, Christine Miller, called and encouraged me to try it out. She had stayed there when her daughter needed care in Boise and she told me it was a great place. Boy was she right! I couldn’t imagine a better, more caring place to stay under such hard circumstances.  

The Ronald McDonald House is just a short walk from the hospital, which made it so easy for us to visit our baby often. They were so well supported by volunteers that we hardly ever had to worry about cooking our own food! If there wasn’t a fresh dinner being served there were usually yummy leftovers in the fridge and cookies on the counter. That alone was a life saver! The staff members and director were always so friendly and caring and eager to know how our little one was doing and loved to see her pictures. We also met other parents who had babies and children in the hospital. I guess you could say that we formed our own little support group and shared many of our ups and downs (after all, NICU life is a never-ending roller coaster of success and setbacks) and we encouraged each other along the way.       

Abigail had a rocky road through the NICU. At just three weeks old, she contracted a PICC line infection and became so skinny and sick I was just beside myself with worry and grief. It was so hard watching the hospital staff constantly suck blood out of her lungs, try to place IV’s, and lance her little heels several times a day for blood tests. She was my baby, she was crying, she was really sick, and all I could do was watch. I pumped her milk, held her tiny little hand through a window, sang to her, and prayed my heart out. Three weeks later, Abigail finally shook off the ventilator. Slowly, she started to do better and gained weight. After three long months of several more ups and downs, Abigail finally got to come home!  It was two days after Christmas and she was our best present yet!

Now, eight years later, “Abby” has three little brothers and she is as happy and healthy as ever! She loves school, creating artwork, and playing with her friends and brothers.

Our time spent in the NICU and at the Ronald McDonald House now feels like a distant dream. We are so grateful for the wonderful caring staff, the precious volunteers and donors, and our new-found friends who made this really hard time in our lives as comfortable and bearable as possible.”

We will be sharing more of these family stories through social media as we celebrate 30 years of helping families stay together and close to the medical care their children need.