10-year-old Cayde Brannaman grew up at Ronald McDonald House Houston. She started coming here when she was just 4 years old and needed a double lung transplant. Cayde’s grandmother, Pattei, is her primary caregiver when she is in Houston so Mom and Dad can continue working back in Wyoming to support Cayde’s medical costs and care for Cayde’s three other siblings.
From the beginning, Cayde has faced many health challenges. She was born early at 27 weeks old with ASD, a hole in her upper heart chamber, pulmonary hypertension, and pulmonary vein stenosis. Cayde would need a double lung transplant. These results led Cayde’s family on a journey across the country to many different hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses looking for the best treatment.
Since very few places could perform pediatric lung transplants and waiting for lungs could take a long time, the family decided that Houston offered the best chance for Cayde. “There were many reasons for this decision but one of the biggest was Ronald McDonald House Houston,” explains her grandmother. “We felt RMH Houston was the best place for Cayde to have a successful learning experience since she could start school right there inside the Holcombe House. This is something we hadn’t seen before at other houses we’d been to.”
One of the most special parts of this Ronald McDonald House was Mogie, the House pup. At home, Cayde’s family had three dogs and being away from home really made her miss her pets. Cayde had been to so many hospitals and even different Ronald McDonald Houses, so it was difficult for her to come to Houston and start everything over again. Though she always brought with her a box of her favorite things when she left home, the one thing she couldn’t bring with her were her pets.
When she first met Mogie, he was just over 1 year old. Some of their best times together were spent throwing the ball and chasing each other around the House. It can be very hard for sick kids to play like that, so the exercise was really good for Cayde and didn’t feel like work.
After waiting for lungs for 1,354 days, Cayde finally received the gift of life on March 18, 2013. After her transplant, Cayde was having a hard time in her recovery and kept asking to see Mogie. And since he couldn’t come to the ICU, Leslie (RMH Houston CEO) sent Cayde a video of Mogie dancing so she could watch it while in hospital. It brought such a big smile to her face. When Cayde was finally released from the hospital to RMH Houston, there was Mogie racing to meet Cayde right at the door.
Mogie and Cayde have grown up together. They have celebrated birthdays, milestones, and now her lung anniversary together. Cayde’s favorite place to be alone at the House is actually Mogie’s doghouse. “Sometimes we find her watching a movie on the iPad and Mogie sitting outside looking in on his little friend,” reveals Pattei, “Some people are not animal people at all, and Mogie seems to know, and only come over to the ones that openly greet him. Even if I just wanted to go outside and have a good cry away from Cayde and her mom, Mogie seemed to know and would just sit with me while I tried to find answers to questions I could not answer. So while Mogie was an amazing asset to Cayde’s growth and recovery, he got me through some tough times too.”
Six years later, Cayde still looks forward to her visits at Ronald McDonald House Houston. And who is she most excited to see when she returns? Mogie!
Pattei shared how much she saw her granddaughter’s confidence and personality flourish at the House. “Her connection to Mogie and the staff was truly remarkable, and she cared about everything that went on in this House. She even kept track of who took out the trash and helped everyone learn where things were. The road for transplant patients is difficult and filled with uncertainties, and being away from home is difficult for everyone. But knowing that we have a family at Ronald McDonald House Houston with one little dog, and a staff full of loving and caring people makes it so much easier. It’s a great feeling to know we have a place to call home where we are welcomed and loved.”
“When I grow up, I will be a doctor and help kids like me get better,” Cayde tells us. And we have no doubt that she will achieve whatever she sets her mind to – while spreading a few smiles along the way.