Ronald McDonald House

“They will be greeted with love”

October, 2011

By Gene Davis ~

When Caylee Preston–Akana was born in mid–June she weighed 1 lb., 2 oz. and was 11 inches long. “She came out crying strong,” mom Christal Letizia, 29, recalled. Her lungs have been top–notch from the beginning.”

Caylee in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Kapiolani Hospital
Caylee in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Kapiolani Hospital
But when a baby is born 15 weeks early, it is never easy, and it has been a long up–and–down battle for Caylee. Christal, who lives on the Big Island, has been by her side every day. “I get up and eat breakfast, and then I take the 8:30 a.m. shuttle to the hospital. I stay there all day and take the 8:30 p.m. shuttle back to the Ronald McDonald House. I eat dinner, take a shower and go to bed. I can breathe at the end of the day and go to sleep grateful that my baby‘s ok, and that I will have food in my stomach. Then I get up the next morning and do it all over again.”

“Caylee did awesome for the first three weeks,” said Christal. “Then she started showing a heart murmur, which indicated a valve that was supposed to close after birth didn‘t close. They had to perform surgery to repair it and she did perfect. But that night she was really sick. Something was wrong. We couldn‘t figure out what was going on.”

Doctors found that Caylee‘s intestines were not functioning correctly. “They said that when she was in severe physical distress, all the blood was going to her heart and brain,” recalled Christal. “It robbed her bowels of necessary blood and may have caused part of it to die or have a blockage.” It‘s something doctors have been working on ever since.

< p> Each day, Christal sits next to Caylee in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, bonding with her, and helping nurses take care of her when appropriate. “Caylee has everyone in the NICU wrapped around her little finger,” chuckled Christal. “She‘s a happy, happy baby. She‘s so strong. And just beautiful.” Sometimes when Caylee snoozes, Christal reads or visits the nearby Ronald McDonald House Family Room. “It‘s wonderful! It‘s got comfortable chairs and no beeping machines. It‘s got Internet, and they have books too, so it keeps me sane. I borrow a lot of books from there.”

Christal looks forward to the day that Caylee is released from the hospital and can join the family in Kurtistown. The new baby has a 10– year–old–brother named Joshua to get to know and a large extended family there.

When things get back to normal, Christal will continue working toward her nursing degree. “After seeing these caring nurses in action at Kapiolani, I‘m re–inspired to be a nurse. They are just wonderful.”

Christal must bide her time, but misses her son and extended family at home on the Big Island
Christal must bide her time, but misses her son and extended family at home on the Big Island
Christal has had quite a learning experience this summer and can offer some words of advice to others that may face similar situations. “Number one is to take it day by day. As hard as it is, you can‘t plan tomorrow, so don‘t try. It‘s just more stress. Number two: Accept all the help you can get—all of it. Number 3: As hard as it seems, the bad days go away.

Christal has gone from being a tentative newcomer at the Ronald McDonald House, to being someone the newcomers look to for information and support. “I made a ton of friends at the House. Being able to help them through their rough days and to have them help me through Caylee‘s rough days is priceless. I didn‘t intend to make friends while I was here, but I will never lose contact with these people.”

What would she tell someone who was about to arrive at the Ronald McDonald House? “That they will be greeted with love. Enjoy it.”

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