MUSCATINE, Iowa —Chad and Mandy Hunter of Muscatine were excited to meet their first child, but one thing they weren’t expecting was to meet her so soon.
The couple was enjoying the wonders of a normal first pregnancy in April when Mandy began experiencing labor symptoms 14 weeks early.
Within minutes of arriving at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, Mandy learned she needed to receive specialized care at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
It came as a worrisome surprise.
“My pregnancy was perfect,” said Mandy. “But our baby decided to come early, and there’s no rhyme or reason why.”
The ride to the hospital was tense.
“The doctor and nurse rode with me in the ambulance, because they thought I could deliver at any minute,” said Mandy. “I commend the people at Mercy for acting as quickly as they did.”
There was reason to hope for a good outcome.
The baby’s 20-week ultrasound was normal and the Hunters believe the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics provide the best neonatal care in the country.
Mandy made it to the University of Iowa Hospitals without delivering, giving doctors time to provide her with steroid injections.
The Hunters learned that two full doses of steroid injections given 24 hours apart before the baby is born can make a significant difference in an unborn child’s lung function.
“She was able to hold on two days before she delivered,” said Chad.
Mandy is grateful that she was able to deliver her baby without a cesarean on April 11.
The Hunters’ daughter, Eden Hunter, weighed 1.13 pounds at birth and was immediately transferred to the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Eden has had surgery to repair a heart murmur, and she has been doing well otherwise.
“Now she just needs to grow,” said Chad.
The Hunters were allowed to touch Eden after she was born, but they had to wait until she was five days old to give her a kiss.
Family and friends, including Mandy’s parents, Steve and Glenda Kraklio of Durant, Chad’s mother and step-father, Judy and Greg Kauffman of Muscatine and father and step-mother Tom and Linda Hunter of Wilton, provide support and assistance.
“Everyone’s been so amazing,” said Chad, who added that the congregation from the Chapel of Praise, where the Hunters attend church, has also been helpful.
Mandy stays in Iowa City and sleeps at the nearby Ronald McDonald House, a special accommodation provided for families who have loved ones at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
She is taking time off from her position as a dialysis technician at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ dialysis center in Muscatine.
“Mandy basically lives at the hospital,” said Chad, who joins her daily after working his shift as desk manager at Stanley Consultants in Muscatine.
The hospital staff have been educating the Hunters on how to care for Eden at home.
Their baby may come home on her actual due date of July 15, said the Hunters, but nothing is certain.
“Our goal is to bring her home Aug. 1,” said Chad. “That way, our hearts aren’t breaking if we have to wait.”
Although their experience has caused them great concern, Chad says he “wouldn’t change a thing.”
“It’s made us stronger, to see how strong she is,” said Mandy.
Every day brings new milestones.
“We count our blessings every minute of every day,” Mandy said Friday. “She was three pounds 13 ounces last night. She’s getting a double chin.”