Trish Santiago smiles with her twin sons, Alex and Andrew

Alex & Andrew

After struggling with infertility for more than a decade, Trish and Dan Santiago were overjoyed to learn that Trish was pregnant with twin boys in 2011. Due to complications with her pregnancy, Trish was admitted to Albany Medical Center at 23 weeks. Just days later, she went into active labor, and when one of the twin’s hearts stopped beating, she was rushed into the operating room for an emergency C-section.

“They started yelling, ‘We need an O.R.,’ and Alex and Andrew were born 13 minutes later,” Trish recalls. “They weighed 1lb 1oz and 1lb 2oz. They were the tiniest things I had ever seen in my life.”

Alex and Andrew spent the next six months in the NICU at Albany Med. During this time, as Dan returned to work and made the more than two-hour round trip from their home in Corinth, NY to Albany as often as possible, Trish found a home away from home at the Ronald McDonald House.

Santiago baby in NICU

She would spend all day at the hospital, returning to the House around 2 a.m. to get a few hours of sleep. On many occasions, she was jolted awake by an emergency phone call. “There were many nights where the hospital would call me and tell me I needed to get there right away,” she says. “I would throw on clothes and rush over.”

Both Alex and Andrew had heart surgery as well as operations to repair double hernias. Andrew also had surgery for retinopathy, a potentially blinding eye disorder common in preemies. Through all of this, Trish stayed by their side, and each night she returned to the Ronald McDonald House, where she had a shoulder to cry on, a home cooked meal to fill her stomach, and a beautiful room to call home. With her every need taken care of, she was able to focus 100% of her energy on her sons.

“For five-and-a-half-months, I never had to clean a toilet. I never had to take out the garbage. I never had to strip a bed. You take all of that for granted,” she says.

When Trish reflects on her time at the Ronald McDonald House, it is difficult for her to hold back tears:

“I had an emergency C-section and physically couldn’t have made that drive to and from Corinth every day. And we couldn’t have afforded driving back and forth and eating out every night,” she says. “Because of the House, I was able to be with my boys every single day. Without having their mother by their side, singing and talking and all of that, I don't believe the boys would have made it.”

Throughout his childhood, Andrew had to return to Albany numerous times for additional surgeries. On each of those occasions, the Santiagos were welcomed back to the Ronald McDonald House with open arms. In fact, they returned so often that Trish says she eventually lost count of their visits.

Today, Alex and Andrew are both healthy and happy young boys. They are older brothers to the Santiago’s “surprise baby,” Avery, who loves the House as much as his siblings (and parents) do.

“We’ve had ten years now of going back and forth to the House. For us, it’s home. Any parent who has ever stayed there knows what a blessing it is. I could never do enough to repay what I have been given because my boys are still here.”

-Trish Santiago, mom to Alex, Andrew & Avery