On November 7, 2020 during the global COVID-19 pandemic, Halie Gray gave birth to her daughter Esmie at just 31 weeks into the pregnancy. The newborn was transferred to the NICU at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, and Halie, now a single mother, didn’t know what to do next. There was no set timeframe on how long Esmie’s hospital stay was going to be. Traveling back and forth to her home in Muscatine, Iowa would be too expensive, so after a nurse suggested the Ronald McDonald House just blocks away, Halie was able to secure a place to stay.
“I cried when I got to my room at the Ronald McDonald House,” said Halie. The stress was mounting for the new mom. A baby in the hospital, being away from home, and taking a leave of absence from work was a lot to take on all at once. But Halie found solace in her new home away from home. She explains, “I had my own space to take a break, to relax, and to feel normal. And best of all, I was so close to my baby. Even when a snowstorm came through Iowa City, I was still able to get to the hospital to see her.”
Sometimes the little things at the Ronald McDonald House mean so much to families. Halie remembered the staff being helpful and the abundance of food, but perhaps her favorite thing was something simple. “I loved the bed in my room! It was so awesome and great to know I had a comfy place to rest my head after long hours at the hospital,” said Halie. After 67 days in the hospital, Esmie was able to go home and Halie will never forget her time at the House. “I was given the gift of being close to my child during such a rough time. This place changes people’s lives, and it’s incredible,” said Halie.