The Michael Family

In June of 2018, Cassandra and Anthony Michael faced every parent’s fear; their three-year-old son Mathis (Moose) became unresponsive. “It was just a normal day at the lake, and we were trying to get as much time in the water as possible,” explained Cassandra. Mathis gave his mom a big thumbs up, but moments later he looked pale and fell into the water. Cassandra rushed to pick him up; he hadn’t been under water but a second and was already short of breath. An ambulance arrived and whisked Mathis and his mom off to Parkview Regional Medical Center. “The on-call doctor told me that she was going to save my baby, even though I had absolutely no idea what was going on,” Cassandra told us. Mathis had experienced a brain aneurism just before he had fallen into the water. The doctors got him into a deep coma and removed a portion of his skull to eliminate the swelling.

Anthony and Cassandra slept on the benches outside of Pediatric ICU for the first 2 nights before they decided to take the nurses up on their offer to get them a room in the Ronald McDonald House. “When we checked in, we walked from the hospital into a 5-star hotel. When we came in, they gave us a key, and we got tooth brushes, towels that didn’t smell like a hospital room, deodorant, a hot shower, and a super comfortable bed,” Cassandra and Anthony both explained as they remembered back to their first encounter with the Ronald McDonald House at Parkview. “The House provided us with a place to process life – to decompress. The biggest thing for me was the ability to be a mother in a setting that wasn’t my home. [The House] allowed us to get some normalcy from our crazy situation.”

“One night, I went up to Mathis’s room alone, and I just talked to God. I remember looking at my son’s numbers on the screen, and looking at his head. From the neck down, he was perfect. And I looked at him as though he was the miracle. In my heart of hearts, I knew in that moment that I had to confront my husband about donation, and the possibility of saving other children the way that we wanted ours to be saved.”

“So the fact that we stayed here for the amount of time that we did was really all about perspective,” as Anthony remembers their time at RMH. “We thought that the silver lining in all of this would be that our little boy is a hero: his heart beats today in a little girl, his left kidney went to a man in his 50s who is a father, and his right kidney went to a woman in her 60s.”

In the thirteen days that Mathis was in the hospital, Cassandra and Anthony, along with their other sons Ethan and Ames, found comfort and support from their extended family, friends and the Ronald McDonald House. Inside the House, their family came together to eat and sleep, and to cry and pray. Ultimately, Cassandra and Anthony had to say goodbye to their sweet “Moose.” Cassandra says that, despite it being “the longest two weeks of my life,” her family’s stay in the Ronald McDonald House was a gift. “Our time in the Ronald McDonald House gave us the perspective, the support and the love we needed to process everything that was happening. When it was finally time to go, none of us wanted to leave. At that moment, we all felt that our home was the Ronald McDonald House.”