In 2014, Kyle Nelson of Hillsboro, Iowa, helped build the new University of Iowa Stead Family Hospital. In 1994, that hospital helped Nelson survive and thrive after being born 13 weeks premature. And now, the same UI Health Care specialist was there to care for Nelson’s child in a time of critical need.
An elite NICU

the foot of a preemie

University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital is home to a Level 4 NICU—the highest level recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This means that our NICU is equipped to care for the tiniest and most critically ill babies, offering the greatest range of neonatal services and support. In fact, we care for more complex conditions than any other NICU in Iowa. 

When Kyle Nelson’s newborn son needed emergency care, the 25-year-old Hillsboro, Iowa, father knew where he wanted to go. He had no idea the trip would turn into a reunion.

“When the doctors said they were sending him to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, I was relieved,” Kyle says. “I wished we would have been here sooner.”

Kyle’s wife, Brianna, had had a normal, healthy pregnancy. When she went into labor on Aug. 18, 2019, she and Kyle delivered at their local hospital. When baby Jaeden was born, doctors discovered he had swallowed meconium during delivery and wasn’t breathing.

“I couldn’t see what was happening, but I knew something wasn’t right,” Brianna recalls.

The local doctors stabilized the infant and he was airlifted to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Kyle followed in his vehicle.

“I knew he’d be in good hands once we got to Iowa City,” Kyle says.

Nelson has a long history with University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. He spent three months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after being born 13 weeks premature in 1994, and in 2014, he worked alongside his father and brother during construction of the new hospital.

Kyle, Brianna, and Jaeden Nelson in the Stead Family Children's Hospital NICU
Jaeden Nelson, shown here with his parents, Kyle and Brianna, received vital medical care at University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital. Kyle also was a patient in the UI hospital's neonatal intensive care unit some 25 years before.

When Kyle got to Iowa City, he asked about some of the providers who had cared for him 25 years earlier and found that Dr. Edward Bell was still working in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital NICU, where he has been caring for patients for 40 years.

“It’s a real treat to have a second-generation patient, particularly since Jaeden is doing so well,” Bell says. “It happens infrequently—less often than one might think, considering how many patients I’ve cared for over the years.”

In his 40 years at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, Bell estimates he’s cared for about 10,000 babies in the NICU.

“I’ve already warned Kyle and Brianna I won’t be around to take care of Jaeden’s son if he needs care in our NICU,” Bell laughs.

“Kyle told me they plan to have their next baby delivered here rather than wait to see if trouble develops and get transferred. I guess they didn’t expect any difficulty since Brianna was at full term but you never know what might happen,” Bell says. “Nearly a third of the patients in our NICU were born at full term and had serious problems, often unanticipated.”

Produced by University of Iowa Health Care Marketing and Communications
Molly Rossiter
Elizabeth VanCamp