Olivia Leal's parents were visiting Orlando from Brazil when she was born at just 26 weeks.
The June 2017 trip to Orlando was supposed to be a shopping trip for Diego Leal and Marilia Pereira so they could buy baby items for their soon-to-be little one. But Marilia was diagnosed with eclampsia and HELLP syndrome and little Olivia was born, more than 14 weeks early.
"Our life went upside down as we couldn't come back home without our baby and we had to wait for her due date, which was September 9, 2017," said Marilia.
Far From Home
Marilia said she remembered the feeling of her family being all alone at Winne Palmer Hospital, when a social worker told them about Ronald McDonald House.
"We were in a different country without family and facing a new challenge. Having RMH nearby let us be more comfortable and we could stay in the hospital almost 12 hours a day," said Marilia.
The Leal Family never planned on staying in Orlando more than a few days when Olivia was born. All of a sudden, they had to figure out how to afford to stay in the country and be close to their little girl.
"We were at the end of our visit in the USA and had some money for only a few more days. We couldn't imagine how much harder our case would have been if there wasn't a RMH for us to stay," Marilia said.
From Strangers to Familiar Faces
Over the next several months, the Leal Family became a familiar sight at the RMH at Arnold Palmer Medical Center. Marilia and Diego made friends with another family from Brazil who were also staying at the House.
The family said they still remember the kindness and warmth from the RMH staff and volunteers. "We were so glad to meet RMH and all the staff because we could feel we were home. People are so nice and friendly, always asking about our little diva Olivia," Marilia said.
The Next Step
After 165 days, Olivia and her parents packed up their belongings and flew home to Campinas, Brazil where Olivia is growing and thriving.
Now that they are home, Marilia and Diego have gotten involved with the RMH in their home city.
"We realized the importantance of the community spirit to help each other as we received that during our stay at RMH," said Marilia. "We found out there is a RMH in Campinas and we already went there for a fundraising event. We will continue visiting the House and helping them."