“Ma’am, the helicopter is about to leave. Where do you want it to go?” asked the officer.

“It needs to go to Iowa City. She needs to go to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital now,” I said. And with that, a 4,000-pound bird took our 30-pound daughter to the place that could help her.

Our daughter, Paetra, was born at UI Hospitals & Clinics in September 2009. Our greatest worry was whether her actual arrival date would conflict with a home football game. We came home shortly after her birth and began celebrating her arrival with family.

“She won’t sit on her own.” At about six months, it was becoming noticeable that she was missing milestones and her head was not growing. Switching to a new pediatrician, we were told that our daughter could be intellectually disabled. We were referred to the Department of Neurology at the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, and within days we had an appointment. We have added to that list doctors we see in genetics, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, orthopedics, pulmonology, rheumatology, and endocrinology. We have done sleep studies and visited the UI Center for Disabilities and Development for evaluations.  

Paetra’s first helicopter ride was when she was 2—she was having a seizure and was turning blue in her car seat. It is amazing to us that all of this care—at such an incredible, high level of expertise—is right in our backyard. Right here in Iowa City.

“Look, she’s standing.” At this past February checkup, she stood on the scale by herself. Our 4-year-old daughter continues to develop since that first visit with neurology. She has been diagnosed with microcephaly (small head), epilepsy, laryngomalacia—and those are just a few. We don’t have a syndrome that labels what she has, but we do have a club. The UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital is our club, and we are so proud to support it with our own personal gifts, gifts from family and friends through Ladies Football Academy, and we are having it written into our will.

Though we don’t know what Paetra has, we do know who she has. She has a legion of supporters. Everyone who donates to the Children’s Hospital is on her team. Their generosity makes this extraordinary facility feel like home. Phil is the champion for our daughter and for everyone who visits UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Phil gives us wings.

Charlene Sauer (2000 B.A.)
Chief Life Officer
Shell Rock, Iowa

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