FAMILY STORY: Danielle

Since 2009 Danielle and her family have called the Ronald McDonald House in Phoenix a “home away from home”. Danielle's family made many trips from their home, east of Albuquerque, New Mexico, so Danielle could have the necessary surgery to open her throat and airway and free her from the tracheotomy that had been with her since birth in 2000.

Danielle’s father Mark will tell you about his daughter’s very special will to live and why.

Here is Mark's story of his daughter Danielle:

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“The tiny baby girl cried for hours, but no one heard. Her young parents had better things to do than care for a baby, so they left her in a basket with a baby bottle of water. That would be tragic for any baby, but for one who came into this world at 24 weeks, weighing only one pound and having spent the first six months of her life in a hospital, it was unimaginable. Sadly, not only did no one hear her cries because those who should have cared for her were absent, but her cries were silent because she had a tracheotomy—a tube placed in her neck enabling her to breathe because her throat was closed at the top. In addition to this, she was on oxygen every minute of her life, which needed to be monitored. But alone she stayed, waiting for someone to come and finally give her some food. But the food was never enough, for she was usually given water and not milk, so at one year old little Danielle weighed only 10 pounds.”

Following placement with a foster family Danielle entered in the lives of Donna and Mark. With her adoptive family her healing journey began. Danielle gradually improved in health, though she had a few setbacks. Still she grew and received adequate nutrition, her lungs grew new healthy tissue and finally she was able to come off oxygen during the day when she was eight-and-half years old. “What a difference this made in her life,” adds Mark. “She now has the ability to freely run and play, and could be twice as active as before! She also was able to begin the surgeries which would open the throat and enable her to get the trach out.”

Danielle’s biggest surgery was tough. Her throat was opened by Dr. Scott Schraff of Phoenix Children’s Hospital and a piece of her rib was taken out to be placed in her throat to keep it open. Multiple surgeries needed to follow to keep Danielle’s throat open, and each and every time Danielle’s family was able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House so that Danielle could have her life-changing surgeries. During this time, her parent’s shared an encouraging surprise that Danielle could whistle for the first time in her life, and blow bubbles and blow out candles and it was wonderful! Danielle’s final surgery took place a year ago in March 2010 has made such a difference in her life. Danielle was able to go swimming for the first time in her life at age nine last summer and Mark shared she thoroughly enjoyed it! Mark sends their thanks to all those who gave his daughter a new lease on life and who have helped them along the way, including the supporters of Ronald McDonald House:

"We had prayed for years for the day she could get her trach out and are so thankful...just to breathe is a gift..."