MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One Twin Cities family is especially thankful to be able to sit down together for a meal this holiday.

Owen Markinovich will have his first Thanksgiving dinner at home. Owen is 19-months-old and has a history of health problems, even refusing to eat.

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A Family Holiday

Preparing the Thanksgiving meal requires patience. The peeling and cooking can take hours. But for Kyle Marinkovich’s family, the wait for this holiday meal has lasted far longer.

“It’s really special for our whole family to be together,” said Kyle, Owen’s father.

Owen joined his family for the first time at the Thanksgiving dinner table Thursday.

“You take a lot of stuff for granted. Then you’ll have a situation like we’re in and you stop taking those things for granted,” Kyle said.

Born a micro preemie, at 24 weeks, Owen spent months in the hospital. When he finally went home, his parents had another challenge.

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Owen wouldn’t eat. Months of feeding tubes and ventilators had taken a toll.

“It turned into a place where he didn’t get enough practice, and he didn’t have a desire to eat,” said Tatum Marinkovich, Owen’s mom.

The family enlisted the help of a food therapist from Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. An occupational therapist helped the family test foods and teach him how to eat by making a game out of sampling different foods. Three months later, Owen is making progress.

“They warn you: It’s like watching paint dry, and in some ways, it’s felt that way. But, he’s been really receptive once he found the right flavors,” Tatum said. “It’s a lot of blood sweat and tears, and each milestone is huge.”

This Thanksgiving brings the biggest milestone yet: the promise of more holidays together.

“To see where he’s come, today, there’s just so much to be thankful for,” Kyle said.

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Owen still has challenges. He’s only eating pureed foods right now. His family is still trying to work with him on eating solid, crunchy foods. You can follow their progress at www.aintnorollercoaster.com.