Johnson family one of 672 helped from Barry County
Johnson: ‘I am so thankful to the Ronald McDonald House Charities’
On Jan. 24, the 26th annual Share a Heart Campaign began, aiming to provide families of ill and injured children lodging, hope and comfort during some of their hardest times.
For 36 days, 61 McDonald’s restaurants and various other businesses in the Ozarks will place red, pink and gold “adopted” paper hearts on their walls and windows in support of the two Springfield Ronald McDonald Houses.
During the Share a Heart Campaign, people can purchase paper hearts for $1, $5 or $20 at the Cassville McDonald’s, located at 93 Main St.
In 2018, the Ronald McDonald Houses located near Cox South Hospital and inside of Mercy Kids, served 800 families traveling to Springfield for medical treatment.
More than 13,200 families have been helped since opening, including 672 Barry County families, of which 157 are residents of Cassville.
In 2018, the average length of stay at the Ronald McDonald Houses per family was 10 days.
On July 2, 2018, the Johnson Family, from Cassville, welcomed twin baby boy, Sylas Hans, and twin baby girl, Senyah Evalee, to the family five weeks early, and experienced the care and support of Ronald McDonald Houses during that uncertain time.
Lacey Johnson, the twins’ mother, said she and her husband Austin have been married for eight years. In fact, the twins were born on their anniversary.
“I had no problems throughout my pregnancy, but they came five weeks early,” she said. “When they were born, they were in the NICU for 11 days.”
Johnson said the family also has two other boys Liam, 5, and Kiptyn, 4.
“Austin had used most of his vacation days for doctors’ visits in the last few weeks of my pregnancy, but he saved five days for after they were born,” she said. “Since we were there for 11 days, he had to go back to care for the boys and also to go back to work.”
Johnson said her mother came and stayed with her during that time.
“When the babies were born, their lungs just weren’t fully developed,” she said. “They were both on CPAP machines to help them breathe, and for the first few days, they were on oxygen.
“They had to learn to breathe on their own before could bring them home.”
Johnson said they were both born about 6 pounds, but Sylas had a few more issues and would seize and forget to breathe.
“We first applied for the Ronald McDonald house there at Mercy Kids, but they were full,” she said. “So, we got what is called a day pass so we could go up there anytime from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., we could cook, relax or nap, and they have a playroom for the kids.”
Johnson said they were able to use that throughout the day, and at night, they would go to the Ronald McDonald House by Cox South to sleep.
“We stayed for eight nights there, and for the last three days, they did what they called in-home parenting,” she said. “Before the babies came home, we actually stayed in the room with them all night. During that time, we were only allowed to have what they call touch time every four hours.”
Johnson said in between touch time during those three days, they could go up to and eat a dinner that a group of volunteers would cook almost every night.
“I knew about the Ronald McDonald Houses, but I didn’t know what all they did for people,” she said. “Everything was free to us, they had laundry service, refrigerators, meals and a freebie table.”
Johnson said it was nice to have those home comforts to relieve some of the stress.
“When I first arrived at the House, they gave me a welcome bag with crosswords, pen, paper, a journal notebook, a throw blanket and all kinds of things that you could possible needs,” she said. “On about the sixth day, the babies each also received a welcome bag. They each got two handmade quilts, receiving blankets, knitted hats, mittens, onesies, a memory book, bottles and it was just full of things for each of them.”
Johnson said all of those items were collected by donations.
“As a mom, it was hard to see my babies like that,” she said. “I had them at 10 a.m., but I wasn’t even able to see them until 8 p.m.”
Johnson said the nurses and doctors warned them that the babies are on breathing machines and doing good, but she had never really seen someone like that before.
“I really trusted the nurses and doctors, and I did what they told me to do,” she said. “When they got the breathing down, we had to work on feeding, and the entire staff worked with me on ideas that I had and I also took any ideas that they had.”
Johnson said the staff was very helpful and explained things, but they also let them be parents and learn what works for their babies.
“It was hard, especially having the two older boys,” she said. “They didn’t understand why we couldn’t bring their brother and sister home and why I was at the hospital and not at home.
“We never really prepared the boys for the possibility of not bringing them home right away, because we never had any issues throughout my pregnancy.”
Johnson said the NICU nurses were the ones that suggested the Ronald McDonald Houses.
“They gave me the paperwork, and they took care of everything from there,” she said. “The paperwork was simple. It was one sheet of paper that explained what the Ronald McDonald Houses was and did. I just had to fill in my name and the twins’ names.”
Johnson said for Christmas this last year, the family didn’t have a traditional holiday.
“I got into contact with the office manager at Mercy Kids and asked her what kind of things that they needed,” she said. “Our families donated items like food, shampoo and things like that.
“Cassville middle school actually did a penny war and raised $500, and we were able to take that money and get more things to take up there for Christmas.”
Johnson said her mother works at the school, and they usually do a penny war, so she decided this year to do it for the Ronald McDonald Houses.
“I am so thankful to the Ronald McDonald House Charities for their support and kindness,” she said.
Johnson said both babies are healthy and strong, and she has a home full of love with her four children.
“The twins are six-and-a-half months old and are hitting every one of their milestones,” she said. “The doctors warned us that with them being born early they could be behind or struggle with things, but so far they have rolled over, sit up and started eating exactly when they should.
“They are perfectly healthy, and you would not be able to tell by looking at them that they were ever in the NICU for that long,” she said.
In 2018, 33 Barry County families were helped by the Ronald McDonald House Charities, and they stayed for a total of 385 nights.
For more information about both Springfield Houses people may visit www.RMHCozarks.org.