Mike Tarwater has never felt as connected to a construction project as he does to the new children’s hospital. That’s because construction professionals like Mike often move from town to town for the next big job. But in Iowa City, he has special ties to both the patients and care teams at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
As a project manager for Gilbane Building Company, Mike has met many patients and their families. He treasures being a part of their lives, even for a few minutes. Whether delivering toys or helping out with an activity, he is often reminded why he is here—and why his work is so important. This isn’t the first hospital project he has worked on, but it is the first one where he has formed special bonds with patients.
His ties don’t end there. In 2014, Mike’s wife, Shannon, gave birth to their daughter, Natalie, at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Since then, Natalie has been cared for by pediatricians at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital for routine care. “Compared to a typical children’s hospital patient, we’re really lucky,” he says. “I realize that every day.”
“Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve just received great care,” Mike adds. For example, when Shannon was in labor, a labor and delivery nurse stayed past the end of her shift until Natalie was born.
In an unexpected way, Mike’s experience as an expectant father gave him new insight into his job. When Shannon was in labor, a construction crew was working in a nearby part of the hospital.
Nurses and doctors noticed the loud noise, along with Mike and his wife. Ultimately, they asked the workers to be quieter. “It was not amusing at the time,” says Mike. But his experience gave him “a different perspective on noise complaints,” he says, which can be part of life in the construction business.
What does Mike look forward to when the new children’s hospital opens? “Seeing the looks on patients’ faces when they go through for the first time is going to be really something,” he says.
And when Mike moves on to other projects, he’ll always look back on the work he has done with UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital. It has been extraordinary, in more ways than one.