The Knapp Family

Andy and Nicole Knapp were ecstatic to find out they were expecting a child right before their two year wedding anniversary. However, twenty weeks into the pregnancy an ultrasound discovered something worrisome. Doctors broke the news to the young couple that their baby would be born with a heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia. The Knapp’s knew this wasn’t going to be a simple birth and started planning for an extended hospital stay.


Kaeli Knapp was born on May 11th, 2018 and thirteen days later she had her first surgery to place a Blalock-Taussig (BT) shunt in her heart to increase pulmonary blood flow. While surgery was a success, when Kaeli was on the way back to the recovery room she formed a blood clot in her newly installed BT shunt. Doctors acted quickly and temporarily put Kaeli on life support before they went in to replace the shunt. After the second surgery of the day, the newborn was placed back on life support and was monitored closely by medical staff.

Kaeli’s recovery seemed to take two steps forward, then one step backwards for nearly five months. Andy and Nicole felt fortunate to stay at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) of Iowa City as well as use the Ronald McDonald Family Room at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Nicole explains, “Since our daughter was a cardiac patient on the third floor, we were able to use both locations when she was on life support. It was amazing to have a place where we didn’t have to worry about meals or finances. Sometimes the hospital was too much for us, so RMH was a place of relief for my husband and I.”

The Knapp’s were finally able to take Kaeli home in late September, but know with some future surgeries down the road, the Ronald McDonald House will always be there to help, “It’s tough to put into words all that Ronald McDonald House Charities has done and will continue to do for our family. They gave us an ear to vent to, a face to talk and laugh with, and a shoulder to cry on. No matter what the circumstances were, the Ronald McDonald House was always there to help.”