Chelia Briner was at work when her water broke 13 weeks before her due date. In the dead of winter, she was rushed in an ambulance from Waterloo to St. Luke’s Hospital where she received an emergency C-section. When her daughter, Journee, arrived in the world, she weighed just 2 lbs. 2 oz. She was immediately placed in the NICU, where she would stay until she became healthy enough to go home.
Despite the circumstances, Chelia’s experience was far from what she’d expected. When the 45-minute drive to and from Waterloo everyday was not an option, she knew she’d have to stay in Cedar Rapids to be near her daughter. Much to her surprise, the Ronald McDonald Family Room at St. Luke’s quickly became her home away from home.
Originally Chelia was apprehensive about using the Family Room and couldn’t bear to leave her daughter’s side. After the third day of constant vigilance, the nurses and Chelia’s family urged her to visit the Family Room. After getting some sleep in the Family Room Sleeping Rooms and finding support from other families also using the Family Room, Chelia was able to improve her own health and better care for Journee.
When it came time to leave, the transfer was a bittersweet moment for Chelia. She had formed a family with the staff and everyone in the Ronald McDonald Family Room, and the emotional goodbyes were hard to give. Today, Chelia and her daughter are back in Waterloo, and Journee is thriving. “She is constantly smiling.” Says Chelia. “I don’t know what my life would be without her.”