It was a seemingly normal day for Carrie Tysdahl. Despite a few pains that she dismissed as a typical part of pregnancy, she went about her daily routine. But after a last minute appointment with her doctor to get some peace of mind, she learned that things weren’t normal after all—her water had broken at just 22 weeks, 0 days. In total shock, Carrie was taken to the University of Iowa Hospital, where her son was born 11 days later.
Knox—the Tysdahl’s third son—came into the world weighing only 1 lb., 3 oz. Being born just shy of 24 weeks, Knox was in need of 24/7 NICU care while he grew stronger. During this time, the Tysdahl family was able to stay close to Knox at their temporary home at the Ronald McDonald House of Iowa City. Here, Carrie and her husband Troy found respite and a sense of hope. “After Knox was born, I didn’t want to leave the hospital,” says Carrie. “But at some point, you need a break. Having a place that was so close to our son, but removed from all the stress was such an important piece of the puzzle for all of us. It gave us a dose of normalcy.”
SHELTER FROM THE STORM
For the older Tysdahl boys, their time at the House felt like a vacation, Carrie recalls. “They got to play outside and pick out toys from the toy closet. Our oldest son even learned to ride a big-kid bike in the parking lot. It was such a difficult time for us, yet we have all these good memories.” For Carrie and Troy, the house allowed them to let their guard down and relax. “That’s what really makes it feel like a home—you’re not confined to one room or one schedule. We always felt safe letting the boys explore on their own. It was such a relief.”
After 89 days in the NICU, Knox turned a corner and, finally, it was time to take him home—but not without a proper goodbye. “When we left the hospital, we stopped by the House and the staff came outside and got to see Knox in person for the first time. Until that point, we could only share stories and pictures, so it was an incredible moment for all of us.” The Tysdahl’s time at the Ronald McDonald House officially came to an end on July 6, 2017, but it wasn’t the last time they would see its staff and volunteers. “We still stop by the House any time we’re in Iowa City. The House gave us so much and kept us all together—we want to make sure it’s always there for other families when they need it too.”