The Paden Family
When Jay Paden rang the doorbell at Ronald McDonald House of Mobile late one night, he was bleary-eyed and exhausted, still in shock from all that happened that day. He had no idea what to expect when the door opened; only that they were expecting him.
“I rang the doorbell, and all I remember is someone saying, ‘We’re all ready for you. Your room is ready and we’re here for you’,” Jay said.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Jay’s wife, Shay, had given birth to their baby girl at Springhill Medical Center. Doctors immediately discovered Eva Dawn had a severe brain injury, so she was rushed by ambulance to USA Health Children’s and Women’s Hospital.
“It was terrifying,” Jay said. “At the time, we weren’t sure what was going on. I went with the baby to Children’s and Women’s, and Shay had to stay at Springhill until the following day.”
Jay said that on the first day, the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurses let him stay past normal hours. Meanwhile, his sister called RMHC of Mobile to ask about getting Jay and Shay a room. The House became their home away from home for the next three weeks.
Today, Eva is a thriving three-year-old. She still has some lingering developmental issues, but is an otherwise normal, healthy kid, according to her proud parents.
“One of the doctor’s told us it was the worst brain bleed he’d ever seen in a newborn, and today she’s participating in a gymnastics class,” Jay said.
“When we were at the House . . . how can I describe it,” Shay asked. “It felt like home. When you’re sitting in NICU all day long, and they finally make you leave, being able to come here and relax, even just for five seconds—it was such a huge relief for us.”
“When you’re going through something like that, you don’t think about yourself, that you need to eat, need to sleep, need to shower,” she continued. “The Ronald McDonald House means everything in the world to us.”
“It’s something that will stick with me forever,” Jay added.
Shay said that on a recent trip to Children’s and Women’s, she turned to Jay when they passed the Ronald McDonald House and said, “Is it weird that I miss that place sometimes?”
The couple spent an entire day at the House during the holiday season. His company, Automation Controls Engineering, prepared a feast for the families, brought donations of supplies, and stayed after dinner to clean, put way food and supplies, and visit with the families residing at the House.
“I am so proud that the people I work with wanted to contribute so much,” Jay said. “This House has a forever place in our hearts.”