Niko De La Vega’s Family

Five-year-old Niko’s symptoms started small – he first developed a sore throat, and then came down with a viral cold and flu. His parents, Adrianna and Israel, took him to the doctors, but nothing was found. After returning home, Niko went to sleep. That morning, his parents could hardly wake him up. His symptoms were rapidly becoming more severe. He was rushed back to the doctors, and quickly to a nearby hospital. The next morning, he was transferred to Edward Hospital for more tests.

Niko suffered a seizure while at the hospital, and he was placed on a ventilator. After two days, Edward Hospital transferred him to Lurie Children’s pediatric ICU. After many tests, Niko was diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), a neurological disorder characterized by brief but widespread attacks of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.

While Niko was in critical condition, his parents stayed at the Ronald McDonald Family Room inside Lurie Children’s so they could be right there for him. After a few days in the pediatric ICU, Niko was transferred to the neurology unit. He was making some progress but needed to stay in the hospital for longer. His parents knew they needed to remain by his side. Luckily, Adrianna remembered they could turn to the Ronald McDonald House downtown.

“I knew about the Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s from my role at Great Clips,” Adrianna noted. “We have volunteered there before and have helped fundraise through our annual ‘Have a Heart’ campaign. I never thought my family would need to utilize the charity’s services. Now that we’ve experienced it firsthand, we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Adrianna and Israel stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for 10 days while Niko received care.

“Ronald McDonald House provided us with a peaceful and understanding environment as we went through one of the toughest times of our lives as our son fought for his life,” Israel said. “It gave us a place to simply rest and recover in order to clear our minds and not worry about where to stay or what to eat.”

Their older daughters were also able to visit Ronald McDonald House and the hospital during this time.

“It was truly a home away from home for us,” Adrianna said. “We had the privacy of our own room but could also connect with other families going through similar situations.”

Adrianna continued, “Having access to a kitchen was so nice too. The day the doctors told us Niko could have regular food again, I went straight to the kitchen to cook him his favorite meal. I didn’t even have to go to the store – they already had everything there for me.”

Today, Niko is six years old and is doing great. He’s still on the road to recovery, but has made miraculous strides, according to his parents. He has his next check-up scheduled to continue to monitor his progress.