Jordy Spengler photoIn their words

Hilary and Brannon Spengler
Sherrard, Illinois

“On a dreary day in January, we woke up knowing our child was sick. We didn’t know how sick until we were at the transferring hospital. That’s when our son, Jordy, became septic and unresponsive.

There was no doubt in our minds that we were selecting University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital for the care of our son. To our disappointment, the helicopter wasn’t running that day because of inclement weather. The pediatric transport team arrived by ambulance, and immediately we felt relief knowing our son was transferring with and to individuals who specialized in the type of care he needed to sustain his life.

Upon arrival to the hospital we were called by phone and greeted by one of the nurses from the transport team, who calmly explained that our child was being evaluated. His 106-degree temperature, while not down, was stable. She commented on personal details of how she rubbed our child's hair on the way to the hospital. It's these details that let us know our child was in good hands.

We remember the calm presence of the pediatric surgery team and PICU [Pediatric Intensive Care Unit] nurses who we quickly met and explained that our child would be undergoing exploratory surgery for a bowel obstruction. As a parent, your mind immediately races, and you have a lot of questions. Time was crucial, but the team never once rushed our questions, and our PICU nurse made sure to be by our side. We were reminded that our child was very sick and the surgery team would do their best. We were told surgery may take up to three hours. We were able to walk with our child to the O.R. and were updated immediately by the PICU nurse once surgery started.

To our amazement, positive news came within 45 minutes; surgery was complete. The pediatric surgery team came to update us and explain that our child had six inches of his intestine removed from complications of Meckel’s diverticulum. Immediately, we were able to be with our child again. Trying to remain positive was so important and made easier by all the medical staff.

Back in the room, our nurse explained that the monitors should not be a concern. He was right—it was possible to become overly obsessed with monitors. The nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists always gave detailed explanations with all procedures or medications they administered. This was helpful in learning about the care our child received. The different types of doctors (staff physicians, medical residents, etc.) were explained to us, as were hospital procedures. We enjoyed the opportunity to participate in rounds. One day between all the teams, we counted 22 different professionals in rounds. We like to share this, when explaining how exceptional the care is at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. We had many opportunities in our week-and-a-half stay in the PICU to tell stories about Jordy to the PICU employees. The PICU knew personal details and stories of our child, and it showed. One of the nurses gave our child elephant bedding because she knew he liked elephants. The care teams go above and beyond. While in the PICU, one of the residents from the surgery team washed our child's hair, saying she has a family and wanted to do this for our son as she would want this for her child. When our son came off the ventilator and off sedation, he was experiencing withdrawal. Our nurse went above and beyond, staying past her shift during this challenging time.

When we moved to the floor, our son had staff from other departments who cared for him, and that made us feel our child was special. We had lots of wonderful nurses who had our best interests in mind, and it helped us get through being a hospital parent. When our son got sick, we also had a 4-year old at home and a baby on the way.

Throughout our experience, Jordy healed and we had positive news every day. We know we are very fortunate and are thankful for the care he received. Everyone that cared for our son played such a crucial part in his survival and experience. The doctors, nurses, nurse assistants, therapists, social workers, dieticians, volunteers, and other staff such as housekeepers, became an important part of what got us through this experience.

Also, Jordy felt like a kid again with all the available activities—cars and wagons to ride in, playrooms, music, and art therapy. PT [physical therapy], OT [occupational therapy], and speech made recovery seem like play. Let's not forget Nemo, who played a big role in getting Jordy through his stay.

When we felt it was time, Jordy’s brother came to visit. We packed his toy doctors kit, and thanks to Child Life, he had been reading all about Franklin the turtle who visits a hospital. He related Jordy’s entire experience to Franklin. Jordy’s scars on his stomach were just like Franklin’s crack in his shell. The hospital wasn’t scary for him to visit; it was neat, it had fish tanks, a playground, a cafeteria with pizza, burgers and giant cookies, and people who made his brother better.

UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital also had what we needed to help hold us together. We were able to get into the Rossi House fairly quickly. Being pregnant and not really knowing we would be at the hospital for five weeks, we found a great way to be away from home and still take turns between Jordy’s room and the Rossi House to sleep. Child Life gave us advice and resources for our 4-year old. Child Life also saved us a lot grief at home and greatly helped Jordy get through many procedures.

As a parent, you learn from the educators how to care for your child and do things you never imagined doing. In comparison, if these things were happening to you as an adult, they would be difficult enough. To see your child go through these experiences, and then provide the care once home is even more challenging. All of the educators gave us confidence, and were very patient as we had hurdles in learning how to care for our child who at the time required ostomy care and a feeding tube. We have been back since our first stay for an ostomy take-down. The day of the procedure, the pediatric surgeon stopped in just to say hello prior to surgery. It’s little things, such as a “hello,” that make you feel confident and well cared for from a medical and personal perspective.

We stayed at the new children’s hospital after surgery and it is as amazing as everyone said it would be. We have also been able to utilize the outreach clinic for follow up care.

There were times—during procedures, rounds, or even when we were transferring hospitals and things were at their worst—that employees of UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital would reference how calm we were as parents and how well we were doing with everything. Those same people should know we were feeding off their calmness, their ability to present good or bad news, and honestly how humble everyone was that took part in saving Jordy's life.

Before January, we knew little about the dedication of those in the medical field, and we can attest to the devotion presented in so many ways—not just by the visible presence of long hours but also the commitment of the heartfelt care for our child. For these reasons, our heroes wear scrubs at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.”

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