The Dockendorf Family
The Dockendorf Family


Betty Dockendorf, a Russell, Kansas native, has collected pull tabs for many years and donated them to Ronald McDonald House Charities® Wichita (RMHC Wichita). However, Betty never knew the full extent of where the money from these pull tabs went and who benefited by the money raised. She never dreamed that her family would be the 25,000th family to stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Wichita.


After staying at the Sleepy Hollow Ronald McDonald House for about 8 weeks, she now understands the positive impact that RMHC Wichita can have for families with sick and injured children at local hospitals. “This place is a godsend because I had no idea what we were going to do. I was planning on living at the hospital,” Dockendorf said. Betty Dockendorf checked into the Sleepy Hollow Ronald McDonald House on May 1 after having her third child, Madison Dockendorf. Betty was only 24 weeks pregnant when her water broke. She had experienced a normal pregnancy until then and did not realize she was going into labor. The day after her water broke, she went to the hospital in Hays with labor symptoms, and since then her life has been a whirlwind.  


The Russell native had to be life-watched to Wesley Medical Center from Hays Medical Center via helicopter, which was Betty’s first time flying. She was so scared, and she never wants to fly again.  Fear filled Betty as the compact helicopter flew her to Wichita on a night accompanied with 15 knots of wind, which made it difficult to land on top of Wesley Medical Center. A flight that normally took 45 minutes extended to about one and a half hours. Betty was nauseous and worried about her unborn baby girl by the time they arrived. The doctor in Hays said Dockendorf’s daughter would only have about a 20 percent chance of living if she was born at 24 weeks.   


There was not room for Betty’s husband Jon in the helicopter, so he drove about 200 miles to be with his wife and unborn child. He made it to the hospital three minutes before his wife went into surgery. The doctors put her under for surgery, and miraculously Madison Dockendorf was born at 24 weeks and 4 days. Doctors classified Madison as a micro preemie because she weighed only two pounds two ounces. The doctors told Betty and Jon that they were going to do everything they could for Madison, but they should expect the worst because it was likely Madison would not survive.


Against all odds, Madison is now 33 weeks developed and breathing on her own. She went back and forth between using a ventilator that breathed for her and a CPAP that helped keep little Madison’s lungs open. Since 31 weeks, Madison has been breathing without assistance. Currently, her only medical problem is a brain bleed. Medical staff measures the circumference of Madison’s head from ear to ear every night when they weigh her.  If her head gets too big, the doctors go in through her soft spot and pull the liquid off of her head. Madison has had this procedure done three times; however, doctors are optimistic that the brain bleed will not have lasting effects for Madison.


The Dockendorf’s journey has been difficult, but Betty says she has RMHC Wichita and the community to thank for getting her to where she is now. “This place has saved my sanity. I don’t think I would have been able to make it without the other moms. Being able to be here is just wonderful. I can walk across the street and be with Madison. Everybody that works here is just wonderful. They feed us. They have our toiletries, so we don’t have to go and buy them. It’s just wonderful,” Betty said.


While at the House, Betty spends most of her day with Madison in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She goes there everyday for Madison’s 11a.m. feeding and stays at the hospital until dinnertime when she comes back to the Ronald McDonald House, which she calls home. She eats dinner and talks with the other Moms. Some of the Moms have become her best friends, and she plans on keeping in touch with her support group after she leaves the Ronald McDonald House. After dinner, she goes back to the NICU where she stays until Madison’s 11p.m. feeding is over.


Originally, doctors told the family not to expect to go home until Betty’s due date, which was August 11. But Madison is doing better than expected, and doctors think July 20 is a realistic date for Madison to go home. Madison will be transferred to Hays’ NICU before she goes home to Russell. The family is very excited for Madison to go to Hays because Betty will be able to stay at home with her husband and other two kids, Jon Jr. and Emma. Betty’s family has visited a few times on the weekends, but the family, especially Emma, misses their mother and wants Madison to come home. 


Eight weeks ago, the Dockendorf family knew very little about RMHC Wichita, and what it does for families with sick and injured children. The Dockendorfs donated their pull tabs, but they did not think they would actually need the services of RMHC Wichita. Now they know RMHC Wichita gives hope and stability to families. The Dockendorfs are one family with one story that have benefited from RMHC Wichita; there are 24,999 more.