We didn’t get to hold her. We didn’t get to kiss her

Mackenzy Elizabeth Brown was born on January 13, 2016, and today for the first time, she will be going home.

Samantha and Derrick Brown gave birth to their second child over a month ago in Great Bend, Kansas. At only 32 weeks, their daughter would need specialized care that would take them far from home.

“The doctor said there was no way they could care for a 32 week old in Great Bend, so they would have to fly her to Wichita that morning”, Samantha remembers. “Just seeing her hooked up to everything, that was harder than being told she was going to be flown to Wichita.”

Just hours after seeing their child for the first time, Samantha and Derrick would have to say goodbye as she was flown over 100 miles away.

“The hardest part was her flying without one of us,” Samantha said. “We didn’t get to hold her. We didn’t get to kiss her.”

The next day, Derrick joined his daughter Mackenzy in the neonatal intensive-care unit at Wesley Medical Center and was able to send updates and pictures to the hospital in Great Bend where Samantha would have to stay for another three days.

“The whole drive to Wichita my stomach started turning,” Samantha recalls. “It was like a first date. I was nervous and I wanted to see her. When I got to the hospital it was just incredible. She looked completely different. She was so tiny.”

Still in the NICU, Mackenzy weighed only three pounds, 11 ounces. Both Samantha and Derrick and their son Bentley realized they may be stuck far from home longer than they had planned.

“There is no way we would be able to afford to drive back and forth from Great Bend to Wichita everyday,” Samantha said.

When she heard about Ronald McDonald House Charities Wichita, Samantha was excited at the possibility of staying close to her child.

“Oh that would be wonderful, because otherwise I’d be sleeping on the couch in Wesley,” Samantha said. “I’m not leaving my baby.”

Samantha described how it felt to have a place like Ronald McDonald House Charities Wichita to stay when they needed it.

“Coming here, it’s home,” Samantha explained. “It’s a home away from home. It’s somewhere you can relax and put your feet up. You can be yourself. It makes a very stressful situation easier to handle.”

The Brown family is grateful to everyone who supports and volunteers for Ronald McDonald House Charities Wichita.

“Every single weekend my parents come up, and they come into the Ronald McDonald House and every single time my dad says, ‘What would you do if it weren’t for this house,’ And I start crying”

After one month and three days, Samantha, Derrick, Bentley and Mackenzy finally got to go home, as a family.

Thank you to all of those who support RMHC Wichita for keeping the Brown family, and so many others, close to their child.