Jimmy and Katherine Partin, a Marine Corps family stationed in Jacksonville, NC, never expected to spend weeks living at the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill, but they received devastating news when Katherine was 20 weeks pregnant… Their unborn child had Spina Bifida. The doctors gave them 3 choices: terminate the pregnancy, operate on the baby in utero, or operate after delivery at 37 weeks.
Jimmy and Katherine were scared and worried for what the future held. They spent hours talking with their doctors and conducting online research. Spina bifida is a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings. They finally decided that surgery in utero was their best option. Because the baby was breech, the doctors had a hard time keeping her in position during the surgery; unfortunately, the in utero surgery was unsuccessful. Sophia Partin was born at 29 weeks weighing only 2 pounds and 9 ounces.
Since Sophia would require a long stay in the NICU, a doctor recommended that Jimmy and Katherine stay at the Ronald McDonald House. Being away from home for so long was difficult, especially on 3 year-old big sister, Avery. She did not understand what was going on but Jimmy and Katherine focused on making her feel loved and safe, even as they took turns visiting Sophia. The Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill allowed the Partins to remain together as a family – with Sophia – during her first months.
One of the benefits of staying at the House was getting to know other families and listening to their stories. Jimmy shared, “Watching other families and children overcome obstacles really makes you believe that everything will be okay.” The victories that the Partins witnessed during their time at the House gave them the strength and encouragement they needed to keep going. They had faith that Sophia would thrive and that their family would be stronger. They tried to concentrate on Sophia’s health and happiness.
After her failed surgery, the Partins were told that Sophia would be paralyzed. Jimmy and Katherine were overjoyed when Sophia began to kick and move her legs. The doctors now say she will be able to walk!
After nearly 50 days, Sophia was released from the hospital weighing just under 6 pounds. Jimmy and Katherine, with smiles from ear to ear, showed off their tiny, bundle of joy to friends, staff, and volunteers at the House before heading home for the first time as a family of four.