PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Two families from different corners of California now share a lifelong connection all thanks to the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford. Two little girls had life-saving organ transplants on the same January day. The families believe their girls received the organs from the same donor.
"We had never heard of Biliary Atresia," says Ashley Carter whose baby, 8-month-old Eden, was diagnosed the disease at one a half months old. It's a rare liver disease that occurs in infants where cells within the liver produce bile.
"This is new for me, I had no idea what this life was going to be like," says Lisa Fairgood on the constant hospital visits required after 3-year-old daughter Mariah was diagnosed with Restrictive Cardiomyopathy (RCM). RCM is a rare form of heart muscle disease. According to the American Heart Association, RCM is characterized by restrictive filling of the ventricles which results in a filling of "back up" blood in the atria, lungs, and body causing symptoms and signs of heart failure. Mariah underwent a heart transplant in January.
The two families have no official confirmation the life-saving organs their kids received are from the same donor, but they're fairly certain based on many coincidences. They credit the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford for making their families close. Ashley and Lisa became friends inside the home through mealtimes with the kids, laundry days, and other activities. The two moms discovered their kids had had transplants on the same day after nearly a month living at the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford.
The Carters, from Fresno, and the Fairgoods, from Elk Grove, are now forever linked. "We actually call Eden and Mariah sisters now," says Ashley.
Ashley and Lisa also say they're like sister now too. "We feel like we're carrying on the life of another child through our kids... and it's just something really special that we share," says Ashley.
"I think everything we do is about helping families build relationships with one another; I think that's what families don't expect," says Annette Eros, CEO of the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford. "They're coming into a community of strangers but they leave the best of friends. Everything that we do is to facilitate those relationships... that are priceless."
Apart from basic necessities (free shelter and food) the House also offers families daily services through numerous partnerships. Ronald McDonald House at Stanford offers family support services through trained psychologists. Meanwhile, some activities are meant to simply entertain siblings and parents living in the house.
Emotional and psychological services are incredibly helpful for families dealing with severe trauma and stress. Contact with other parents dealing with similar problems is also helpful. "The other part of it, which most people don't think about, is the emotional part, the physical contact with people, and being able to connect with other families," explains Lisa.
"Just being able to just have girl time and that one on one time with the other moms ... Helped me a lot," says Lisa. Her friend, Ashley, agrees. "It's just been great to have somebody else that's going through the same thing kind of and to share everything," says Ashley.
Baby Eden and young Mariah are doing well after their transplants but will continue to see doctors at Stanford. Both families will likely continue to use services at the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford.
They're just two stories among the 123 families currently living in the home. To find out how you can help Ronald McDonald House at Stanford and the Ronald McDonald House Charities Bay Area click here.