NEW ORLEANS -- Thanksgiving takes on a whole new meaning when your child's life hangs in the balance. Often times, the best medical care is far from home, and staying at your child's bedside is not always an option.
But, thanks to Ronald McDonald House New Orleans, families can be as close as possible during the holidays.
"Get better and go home and play with the other kids," said Kevia Dyer of her wish for her son.
That sentiment was felt by 15 families spending this Thanksgiving under one roof at 4403 Canal St.
Dyer, her son Tru Tucker and two other children have been staying at the house since Sept. 10.
"Most of the time, he's bubbly playing, speaking up, saying hi trying to follow the other kids. Being himself a lovely little boy," said Dyer of her 2-year-old son who has spent most of his life in and out of the hospital.
This latest visit includes eight weeks of intensive tests to help doctors figure out what is wrong.
"You're looking for an end, but there's really no end. His immune system is really affecting him. He always has some type of virus or bacterial infection," said Dyer.
"He has down syndrome but if you were to look at him, you couldn't tell," said Kirsten Rudy.
First time parents Rudy and Jean Pardue are waiting for 2-month-old Aiden to recover from recent heart surgery.
"He was born with an atrioventricular canal. He basically had a hole in the middle of his heart and they went and repaired that one of the valves in his heart," said Rudy.
The newborn is still in the intensive care unit, which is why he couldn't join his family at the dinner table.
While these families make daily trips to and from area hospitals, the house tries to lend a helping hand.
"We give them transportation if they need it. If they don't have a car, we give them hot meals and a bed to sleep in," said Executive Director Lynn Giuffria, who said 15 families are currently at the house.
Although they're forced to spend Thanksgiving far from home, many of these parents are just grateful for another day with their brave kids.
"He's a blessing. He's like this little miracle," said Dyer.
"I'm just thankful for being with family," said Pardue, who plans to support the charity that's helped his family in the near future.
Ronald McDonald House New Orleans says it has had to turn families away in the past because there is just not enough room although the charity is trying to expand. If you'd like to volunteer or make a donation, click here.