Zaylee van Aardt Family

All new parents want to welcome a healthy baby into the world, but when something goes wrong, “it feels like sudden chaos” Hanz van Aardt remembers after the birth of his daughter Zaylee in March 2019. Hours after being born, Zaylee stopped nursing and was rushed to Central DuPage Hospital with what would eventually be diagnosed as meconium ileus caused by an underlying genetic condition related to cystic fibrosis. At two days old, Zaylee underwent emergency surgery.

For the next two weeks, Hanz and his wife, Nienke, visited Zaylee several times a day while their two older daughters and Hanz’ mother stayed at the Ronald McDonald House near Central DuPage Hospital. “I don’t know how we would have done it if we had to drive 40 minutes one way to the hospital. It meant so much that our family was able to stay together at the House, including our daughters and their grandmother. We don’t have any other family in the U.S., but the staff and volunteers cared for our whole family. Our girls especially loved the therapy dogs that visited the House and also meeting the other children.”

“We were at the limits of stress,” Hanz recalled, “but I remember reading the  journal in our room with messages and stories written by families who had previously stayed at the House. It made such an impact to be able to connect with other families who had been through similar experiences, to know we weren’t alone.”