The Kozak Family

When Lara and Rob Kozak’s daughter was born and unexpectedly admitted to the PICU (pediatric cardiac intensive care unit), they experienced first-hand how hard it was to leave their daughter’s side.

“I did not see her. I didn’t get to hold her. I didn’t get to kiss her,” said Lara. “I was trying to recover from my C-section and finally saw her hours later in the PICU. It was hard seeing my first daughter intubated.”

Adeline Kozak was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She needed an open-heart procedure. While the surgery is standard for babies born with this condition, Adeline was unable to undergo the procedure at first due to complications. The surgeons decided it was best for Adeline to stay in the hospital until she was strong enough to undergo the surgery.

During Adeline’s stay, her parents wished to be as close as possible to their daughter. They turned to the Ronald McDonald House near Advocate Children’s Hospital® for help.

“My husband had to go back to work. I was on FMLA, and so I was here alone,” said Lara. “Thank God for Ronald McDonald House because I met a lot of heart families and a lot of heart moms. Ronald McDonald House saved my sanity.”

“I would go to the Ronald McDonald House at night because some days I slept in a chair at the hospital, and it was hard with my C-section recovery. Some days I stayed at the House. I knew Adeline needed me and Ronald McDonald House gave me a breather so I could regroup and be strong for her at the hospital,” continued Lara.

The Kozak family credits the Ronald McDonald House for giving them a home away from the hospital to relax, or simply grab a snack. The other families, volunteers and staff served as a community to the Kozaks, supporting them and caring for their child through this tough time.

“It takes a huge burden off your shoulders. You don’t have to think about food or any supplies, and you can focus 100% on your child,” said Rob.

Adeline was finally able to receive the procedure, and the family returned home for the first time since she was born.

However, Adeline’s heart syndrome persisted. Additional procedures resulted in numerous hospital stays. While each visit presented new challenges, Ronald McDonald House remained constant. Lara and Rob were welcomed back into their favorite room, this time with Adeline’s new sister.

“It was hard to juggle. My husband and I would take turns going back and forth to the hospital and the House. We would switch off. Either of us was with Adeline or with Alyssa,” said Lara.

“Every day we would be at the hospital, and we would come to the House for a quick meal. We would either take it back to the hospital or stay here for ten minutes and then go back. We would switch off with sleeping with the baby at night, and one of us would sleep with Adeline,” continued Lara.

Throughout it all, the Kozaks’ resilience was backed by the comfort the Ronald McDonald House provided.

“It was really hard. But I loved being here and meeting all these heart moms. Instead of a ten-minute lunch, it would be 30 minutes, and then we would walk together for our kids,” said Lara.

Today, Adeline is three years old and underwent her seventh heart surgery in January 2023. The Kozak family has stayed at Ronald McDonald House for over 200 nights, and Ronald McDonald House will remain a home away from home as Adeline’s medical journey continues.