Five months. 151 days. 217,440 minutes. 13,046,400 seconds. And it felt like much longer for Kaycee and John Krecklow.
“Jack was in the NICU for 151 days” Kaycee said. “And we were terrified.”
Kaycee was 24 weeks and three days pregnant with Jack when he was delivered at Mayo Clinic in Rochester via emergency C-section due to a significant drop in heart rate. He was one pound, 11 ounces and his lungs were the worst the doctor had ever seen in a premature baby. His quality of life was unknown—if he survived.
But all Jack needed was time.
“Jack never had any other health complications,” said Kaycee. “It was only his lungs. He needed time for his lungs to grow and we wanted to give him that time.”
Kaycee and John knew Jack was staying in the NICU at Saint Marys Hospital, but they didn’t know where they were going to stay. Weeks before traveling to Mayo Clinic, Kaycee and John stopped working due to pregnancy complications and being on bed rest. That’s when the social worker told them about the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester.
But there was a waiting list.
“We didn’t know what we were going to do,” Kaycee said.
As a result of Jack’s premature arrival, Kaycee needed to stay at the hospital for 24 hours to treat an infection. Once she completed her treatment, a room was available at the House.
“We didn’t know what to expect from the House, but we were greeted with open arms and open hearts,” said Kaycee. “The staff and volunteers were really caring and accommodating after Jack was born. Jack never stayed at the House, but we did…for 149 days and nights.”
Kaycee described their stay at the House as nontraditional; a mom and dad without their child. But it was always a home-away-from-home for her family, whether it was her and John, her and her sister or her and her mom.
“Our typical day was different than most families because our child wasn’t staying with us at the House,” Kaycee said. “In the morning, we had breakfast and coffee on the go and shuttled or walked to the hospital. In the evening, after spending the day with Jack, we returned for the House Dinners. We had a safe place to sleep, eat meals and take showers.
“It was never a worry for us.”
The Ronald McDonald House is located only blocks from Mayo Clinic and Saint Marys Hospital, which is very important for families with inpatient children. Kaycee and John experienced the importance of this proximity on a winter morning.
“I will never forget that day,” Kaycee said. “Jack was only three weeks old and we received a call from Saint Marys at 3 a.m. We left immediately, running out of the House as fast as we could. But it didn’t look good.
“The doctor originally told us Jack was a day-by-day kid. That night, the doctor said Jack was hour-by-hour. It was terrifying.”
His lung had collapsed and breathing was a struggle. The doctor made an emergency decision: transfer Jack to another vent. The decision allowed Kaycee and John to hold their baby boy for the first time. And it saved his life.
“We were prepared to say goodbye to our baby boy,” said Kaycee. “Instead, he is here.”
Jack celebrated his first birthday in September and he is celebrating his first Christmas outside the NICU. But Kaycee and John look back on their first Christmas with Jack fondly because of the Ronald McDonald House.
“The House made Christmas special for us,” Kaycee said. “It was not a typical Christmas, but our families visited for the House Dinner. The House is a happy memory, even though it was a really sad and trying time.
“It’s something I will never forget.”
The Ronald McDonald House of Rochester is in the building process of an expansion, which will make it the largest Ronald McDonald House in the state of Minnesota. It is on track to welcome families in the spring. Kaycee says the expansion will ease so many fears and worries for families who are already going through so much.
“We were originally on the waiting list,” said Kaycee. “And while 70 rooms will not completely solve the issue, it will make a significant difference. There are so many families in need and the House gives families a place to go.”
Jack returned home from Rochester on oxygen, but he no longer needs oxygen support. He has regular appointments with a pulmonology specialist, ophthalmologist and NICU follow-up, but has not required an overnight stay and Kaycee and John do not anticipate ever staying overnight. But if they do…the House is a place they can go.
“It’s comforting to know that the House is there for us if we need it,” Kaycee said. “You don’t truly know what it means until you’re in that situation.”
Kaycee and John will never forget the feeling of going home; of Jack coming home. But now they have two homes—and that’s something they will always remember.