One Swift Current family found themselves navigating uncharted waters when their son Parker was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease just weeks before he was born. 

Cassidy Vaughan was 34 weeks pregnant with her first baby, ready to hear just how big he was when instead, he was handed the diagnosis of Tetralogy of Fallot. The rare heart condition meant Parker would need to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit for the first few days of his life.

Soon after diagnosis, Cassidy and her mother travelled to the Jim Pattison's Children's Hospital in Saskatoon to wait for Parker to arrive.

"I had him at the Jim Pattison's Children's Hospital and he stayed in the NICU for five days, but he did so great," she said. "He only needed a couple shots of oxygen and was gaining weight really well and they sent us home after those five days."

For those nearly four weeks being away from home, Cassidy found solace at the Saskatoon Ronald McDonald House. Immersed in a community of comfort and understanding, she and her mother were deeply moved by the compassion and camaraderie they encountered during this trying time.

"I can't even explain how grateful we were to have that," she said. "Of course, you worry about money through all of this, money is a big stressor, and my husband had to take time off work because our baby was going through all of this. They provide home-cooked dinners, six mornings a week they make breakfast, and then there's the community pantry. It's such an amazing place." 

Parker's resilience through his first week of being in the world had doctors feeling hopeful that although inevitable, he wouldn't need a surgery until he was at least six months old. 

However, that quickly changed when the family had settled back in at home.

"It was so scary," Cassidy recalled. "At five weeks old, he started having these horrible, horrible Tet spells and he would turn bright, bright blue."

At six weeks old, he underwent open heart surgery in Edmonton. 

The Vaughans braced themselves for yet another emotional and logistical challenge. Matthew Vaughan had to take time off work to support his family, while they prepared to stay out of province during Parker's surgery and recovery period. In their time of need, the new parents found a haven of support and understanding at the Ronald McDonald House in Edmonton, where they were embraced by both staff and fellow families facing similar journeys. 

"The very, very, very best thing about Ronald McDonald House, is all those families that are in there going through the same thing or similar things to what you are going through, and everyone is so welcoming, and it really does feel like a giant community that's all living under one roof," said Cassidy. 

Beyond providing food, shelter and amenities, these 'homes,' became lights of hope during the darkest moments of their journey.

Parker Vaughan celebrated his first trip around the Sun on April 26, and is described as an easy-going, happy boy. 

cassidy matthew and parker, happy and healthyCassidy, Matthew, and Parker -- happy and healthy!