Some of you may have noticed that I went missing from the old site for a few months this spring. It was for good reason: On February 5, I became a father for the first time when my wife gave birth to a pair of wonderful -- and very tiny -- children, born seven weeks early. She had spent the previous week warning everyone what was happening like the scientist in San Andreas, but it was still a surprise that the kids had already arrived. They were healthy, but at about four pounds each, they went directly to our hospital's NICU. I followed them up, not realizing that I would be effectively living there for the next month.
We were fortunate. Our twins were in their own room, with a pull-out couch and recliner at our disposal. The NICU had WiFi and laundry. The kids and I could watch Iowa basketball games on a flat-screen television, albeit without sound. Most importantly, our kids were about as healthy as a pair of 33-week-old babies could be. They didn't need respirators after the first night, and they figured out how to do the basics -- breathing, eating, complaining about Fran McCaffery -- quickly. We had phenomenal help from the doctors and nurses, who explained the twins' progress and gave us a crash course in parenting very tiny children.
Even with healthy kids and creature comforts, life in the NICU isn't easy for anyone involved. Many newborns only spent a day or two in intensive care, but those who were there longer settled into a pattern. There were security cards and check-in sheets, bad coffee and worse egg salad sandwiches. There were head-nods to the other long-term parents, the boy across the hall who had been there when we arrived and only left days before us. There was a small sense of relief when they left, baby in tow. There was an understanding of the alarms: the slow beeps that could be largely ignored, the faster, high-pitch blasts that brought the nurses into the room, and that repeating foghorn that nobody wanted to hear, the flashing lights that nobody wanted to see. And then there was sadness, and the unspeakable fear that the foghorn would ever come from your room. The nurses never stop working, exhibiting patience that I didn't know existed, but you could tell that those days took a toll.
On his one-month birthday, my son was released to come home, an oxygen tank in tow but otherwise happy and healthy. One week later, my daughter joined him with a clean bill of health. They are now six months old and doing great, though they're a bit concerned about the changes in the offensive line for 2016. We have the Methodist Women's Hospital NICU to thank, and we can't thank them enough.
We never heard that foghorn in our room. We never had any problems that required anything more than a nurse traveling at a brisk walk. We didn't go to University of Iowa Children's Hospital because, fortunately, we didn't need it. And yet, even with our good fortune, we needed to occasionally get away and drink a cup of coffee or eat a bag of chips. So when UICH representatives told us they intended to apply the proceeds from seven years of Touchdowns for Kids to the Press Box Cafe, it felt like a perfect fit. More than anything else, our site provides distraction. And after my family's February, I can't think of anyone who needs and deserves distraction more than the parents and families who worry about the foghorn every minute of every day.
For six years, we've supported Touchdowns for Kids. We've read the stories and seen the results. We've watched a hospital be built one donation at a time, and we have understood the mission through those stories. But this year is different for me. I've seen some of the work being done at UICH, and at every other children's hospital and NICU in the area. I've seen what can be done, both for kids too young to be dealing with big problems and parents who can never be any more equipped than their children for those issues.
I'm sure there are other stories in our community, and you can feel free to include them here or in the original thread. But whether your life has been touched by UICH or another hospital, or whether you've had the good luck to only know through the stories of others, I hope you donate. Because I've never been more convinced that this is a most worthy cause.