Bismarck’s spring blizzard of 2022 was one for the record books. In less than 72 hours, the city saw more than 18 inches of snowfall, with winds whipping drifts as high as six feet tall. It was the most snow the city had ever seen in an April storm since weather records began being tracked in 1886.
While the weather event itself is pretty memorable, there are a few families who truly will never forget those snowy days.
The NICU nurse
Kodi Bosch is a registered nurse in the NICU at Sanford Medical Center – Bismarck. Despite being nine months pregnant, she had just finished a 12-hour shift.
“I was just kind of feeling a little different. So I figured with the weather reports and all the snow, I should go stop at labor and delivery before I went home just to make sure everything was OK,” said Bosch.
As it turned out, Bosch was in labor. Four hours later, her daughter Olivia was born.
“My husband actually spent most of the day snow blowing our street so I could get home, and turned out he actually needed that to get to the hospital instead,” said Bosch.
The Sanford family
On the northwest side of town, Sanford nurse practitioner Matt Kopp had also been trying to clear snow to get out of his neighborhood. Matt and his wife, Sydney, were concerned that her induction would be delayed due to the storm.
“We were kind of hoping by Thursday, things would lighten up and we’d have no issue getting out of our house,” said Sydney Kopp.
There was just no way to keep up with the blowing, drifting snow though, which was nerve-wracking for the soon-to-be parents.
“I was pretty nervous. I’ve helped deliver babies. I’ve never done one by myself though, but I think if it came down to it, I could have. But I really didn’t want to,” said Matt Kopp with a laugh.
Matt reached out to his father Bill, who also works at Sanford. As it turned out, Bill knew someone who could help.
Mike Salwei is the executive director of sports medicine at Sanford Bismarck. He’s also an avid hunter and fisherman. In the past, his side-by-side off-road vehicle had been used for recreation only. But during the blizzard, it became indispensable as a way to get nurses and doctors out of their neighborhoods and into the hospital.
“The ER starts at 5:00 and the nursing shift starts at 6:00. Once I got those folks here, we had a little break, and then we would do it again in the evening,” said Salwei. “It was a lot to ask of our staff to pack a bag. We didn’t know when we’d get them home. I picked up people that had three days of gear packed. They were 100% prepared to stay for the long haul.”
Then Bill Kopp called.
“Bill had said, ‘when are you making the Northwest run?’” said Salwei. “I mean, I grew up in North Dakota and I don’t think I’ve ever seen residential areas blow in like they did. So getting to their house was much wilder than getting them back.”
Matt and Sydney hopped into the side-by-side, and off they went.
“I thought it would be bigger than it was,” said Sydney Kopp. “So Matt and I, we crammed in with Mike with our four different hospital bags. That was surreal. I can’t believe we’re going to the hospital and this is how we’re going.”
“We had six foot, eight foot, 10 foot drifts out here that we were busting over,” said Matt Kopp.
“They seemed relatively calm and I think they were just super appreciative not only for the ride, but for the staff that was going to take care of them,” Salwei said.
On April 14, Brynlee Kopp arrived safe and sound at Sanford Bismarck.
“The blizzard baby,” said Sydney Kopp.
In it together
The snowstorm certainly caused its share of disruptions all across the region, but these stories stand out.
“It seems like this time, this storm put me in labor too. So it got a little wild!” said Bosch.
The way the hospital ran, both inside and out, really sticks with these new parents though.
“I think that says so much about the Bismarck-Mandan community as a whole and how close we are. We step up when someone needs to step up,” said Sydney Kopp. “From Mike, to our doctors and nurses, everyone really went above and beyond for our entire stay. So I’m so grateful that we chose Sanford to deliver this little peanut.”
It’s a story these parents will never forget. And when Brynlee Kopp and Olivia Bosch get a bit older, they’ll get to hear exactly how they weathered their very first storm.
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