AUSTIN (KXAN) — There’s a new option for families needing a home away from home while their child is being treated at Dell Children’s Medical Center.
The Ruiz family is from Odessa and have been in Austin since August. Their 3-month-old, Rochelle, has a rare disorder and has needed multiple surgeries.
The family is the first to live in an apartment available through the non-profit Open Arms Foundation. It’s a no rent, two-bedroom, furnished home close to the hospital.
“It keeps me close to my daughter, 10 minutes away, so the doctors need me for a blood transfusion like it happened before,” says dad, Rene Ruiz. “If they need me to get here and sign some consent and waivers for all her surgeries…I’m just right there. I’m trying to be there for my daughter as much as I can. Definitely being that close is a blessing.”
Ruiz says the specialty care Rochelle needs is not available in Odessa.
”We originally came here for a feeding problem that my daughter had,” Ruiz said. “We found a lot more problems.”
Dell Children’s is treating more patients needing this kind of specialized care from across the state — previously families were going to Dallas or Houston for care.
“We see this as not just a baby that we are taking care of, but really a whole family and a community,” said Dr. John Loyd, Division Chief of Neonatology at Dell Children’s. “Open Arms just gives us another tool to help provide the support that families need as we provide the medical care that their babies need.”
Rochelle will be at Dell Children’s for many more months. Even after she’s discharged, she’ll still have to be here for therapy and other check-ups.
“The more involved we can have families in the decision-making and in the conversations around all the care that their baby receives in the Dell Children’s NICU — the better,” Dr. Loyd said.
Ruiz says it’s been tough. While dad is staying with Rochelle, his wife is at home working and taking care of their son.
“Everyday I pray that she’s going to beat the odds,” said Ruiz.
The family can stay at the apartment for up to two years. The Open Arms Foundation says they are working on adding more apartments as the need grows. Right now, they have more than 50 apartments available to families who qualify across the state.
Dell Children’s also works with the Ronald McDonald House, but Dr. Loyd said that’s for more short-term needs.