I spent 150 days living at the Ronald McDonald House

Ashli Pershing, who serves as a nurse at Parkview Wabash Hospital, her husband, Ryan, and their children Hali, Cade, Rayli and Karli, are the featured family for this year’s Ride RMHC charity cycling event on April 28, benefiting the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). In an effort to raise awareness about all of the wonderful ways the RMHC supports local families, Ashli shared her personal story of overcoming the odds and leaning on those around you.

I am a NICU mom and member of a Ronald McDonald House family.

My pregnancy began like many others do. Our other three children were school-age and begging for me to have a baby. I became an OB nurse because I loved being pregnant so much I wanted to make a career out of helping women through the birthing process. Of course we would have baby No. 4!

On April Fool’s Day, I found out No. 4 would become a reality. I knew this would be my last pregnancy, so I wanted everything to be perfect. For the first time, I didn’t want to know the gender. I wanted this to be a true surprise. I didn’t fret about buying “things”. We had done this before and we were pros.

Around 20 weeks, we found out that the baby was measuring small. Not just small, but extremely small; less than the first percentile. We were referred to the high risk doctor at Parkview Regional Medical Center and told by our primary OBGYN that we wouldn’t be delivering in the community hospital, but in Fort Wayne, where there was a NICU. Being a nurse and working professionally with this doctor, I knew something was really wrong.

The next week, we met with the high risk doctor and on that day my blood pressure was really high. I was admitted immediately and the care team started running tests. I went home on bed rest. The test results started coming in, and everything checked out OK. Genetically, there were no issues and nothing else we could attribute to her size. The doctor predicted I was on my way to becoming pre-eclamptic.

By my next appointment, a week later, I had protein in my urine. This confirmed the pre-eclampsia he was predicting. I was again admitted, this time to stay until the baby came. At that time, the baby was too small to live, so we were made aware of palliative care options. I knew the options. They weren’t acceptable.

I stayed on bedrest in the hospital for 11 days letting the baby grow. On the 11th day, at 26 weeks and 5 days gestation, we went into an emergency C-section to get the baby out before it became too sick from my pre-eclampsia to have a chance at survival.

On August 27, Karli Mae Pershing was born, weighing in at a magnificent 1lb 3oz and 11.8” long. I looked at my husband from the surgery table and said, “We can do this. We can work with 1lb 3oz.”

Karli was whisked away to the NICU immediately to begin life-sustaining measures. We were warned that life in the NICU would have many roller coasters for our micro-preemie. It did. There were so many violent ups and downs that I don’t care to ever attend an amusement park again.

Karli was eventually intubated for life support for 60 days and then spend another 90 days beyond that growing strong enough to come home from the NICU. We spent 150 days with our child in the hospital. Looking back, I can’t even fathom how we did it, but I know a big part of it was through the love we have for our child and the fact that the Ronald McDonald House exists.

The RMH became my refuge. It was my home. My family. My way to stay connected to my tiny little baby that needed me so badly. It was the place my family could be a family. I made friends. I had spiritual encouragement. I shed tears there with other mamas and strangers prayed for our baby. 

We saw three seasons while living at the RMH. We celebrated birthdays and Halloween and Christmas and the New Year. And eventually, on January 24, our baby came home. She came home whole and complete and healthy, and I owe so much of that to being able to stay at the RMH. I didn’t have to worry about traveling an hour each way every day to see her. I didn’t have to worry about travel expenses, hotel bills, food, and how to get clean laundry. The RMH alleviated all of that. It was a burden that could be lifted from our family so I could take care of our baby and have access to her 24 hours a day. It was a game changer. A life changer.

There will never be enough ways for us to thank the RMHC for what they gave us. We will forever support them and encourage others to choose this organization and their mission when considering a charity to support. This was never the way we imagined No. 4 would go, but we couldn’t have gotten here without the Ronald McDonald House.

Join us for Ride RMHC

This year’s event will be held Sunday, April 28 at 1 p.m. at Kreager Park. Registration is $40 and will be open online until Thursday, April 25. You may also register the day of the event for $45. Children 12 years old and under can ride the Rivergreenway Trail for free. Several routes are available, including a family-fun route up to 10 miles, and road rides of 15, 25, 45 or 65 miles.

Please email Christine Miller, coordinator, Development and Communications, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeast Indiana, or call (260) 266-3510 to learn more.

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