The Chacons: A Grandma’s Love


Dené and Stewart Chacon were ecstatic when they learned that they were expecting their first child. They prepared for their new life as parents and celebrated the news with Dené’s parents, Allyson and Frank Dieterich. They were all counting down the days until the due date – March 18, 2020.

October rolled around and Dené started experiencing sharp pain in her upper abdomen with frequent headaches and dizziness. Allyson was concerned. After months of visits to the emergency room, Dené was matched with a high-risk obstetrician at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson (BUMCT), 92 miles from her home in Hereford, AZ. Her appointment was on December 12.

That’s when everything changed. When she arrived at BUMCT with Allyson, her high blood pressure indicated that she had preeclampsia. Several days and countless tests later, she was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a dangerous complication of preeclampsia that often occurs without warning. Both mom and baby were walking a dangerous tightrope.

Five days later, Dené was rushed into an emergency C-section after experiencing the most horrific pain she’s ever felt. Stewart was still in Hereford at the time. He raced to the hospital, making it in time for the birth of baby Clementine.

“It was really scary,” said Allyson. “Dené was in so much pain and Clementine was so tiny.”

Born at 26 weeks old and 1lb 12oz, her parents dubbed her “Clementiny.” The family never wanted to leave her side, especially after she lost 8oz her first week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

That’s when the Chacon family moved into the Ronald McDonald House. Having a free place to stay near the hospital calmed their nerves.

The first few days were tough. Even Christmas, only a week away, felt like a distant dream and they were far from home, but the Chacones were happy to have each other. The House was decked with holiday spirit as community members brought presents for children and caregivers to open together on Christmas Day. It was comforting to have the holiday cheer and something that felt so… normal.

Dené quickly settled in and all her days followed the same rhythm: wake up, pump milk in the TMC Foundation Lactation Suite, head to the hospital for a long day with Clementine and return to the House late at night for rest and relaxation so that she has the strength to do it all again. The House helped her get a good night’s sleep between hospital trips and she never had to worry about dinner.

But Dené needed the support of her family and Allyson knew that a mom’s job is never done. She has been Dené’s rock through everything. She spends the week at the House while Stewart is in Hereford working.

Allyson’s day starts with a quick breakfast before Dené leaves hospital. Then she runs errands. Often this means shopping for food or washing baby clothes. Early afternoon you’ll find her putting together a batch of leftover Chef for a Day meals to share with Dené at the Ronald McDonald Family Room, on the 4th floor of Banner Children’s at Diamond Children’s Medical Center at BUMCT, just outside the NICU. And while there she enjoys a soft snuggle with her granddaughter.

“Dené is such a great mom,” boasts Allyson between cuddles. “She’s why Clementine is doing so well.”

She loves her full-time job as a mom, grandma and cheerleader, but like all of us, she sometimes needs a break. That’s when she sets herself up for an afternoon of scrapbooking – and her RMH neighbors enjoy it, too! Allyson often pulls out excess pages, stickers and glue to help fellow families remember the good days and happy laughs.

Best of all, Clementine gets stronger every day with the constant love and care of her family. She now weighs over 5lbs and has graduated to the same oxygen concentrator that she will use at home. Her parents look forward to bringing her home to Hereford.

But the battle isn’t over. The family will continue to stay at the House until at least Clementine’s due date of March 18, and likely will stay even longer. Thanks to the support of our many donors and volunteers, families like the Chacones can stay for as long as they need to and can even return for follow-up visits.

You can help children like Clementine live long and healthy lives with a donation to RMHC of Southern Arizona or by volunteering or making a tax-credit eligible gift.


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