When Melissa of Scranton tells her twin boys, Evan and Alexander, the story of their birth, it has a bit more of a twist than most “on the day you were born” stories.
“We tell them that when they were born, they weren’t ready to go home, so they had to go to the ‘growing hospital’ first,” Melissa says.
The “growing hospital,” about 80 miles from the family's home in Scranton, is Geisinger’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville. The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) there was the twins’ home for the first 81 days of their lives, after being born more than three months early at a local hospital in April 2005.
The early arrival meant the boys faced severe medical challenges from the time they were born. Evan was not breathing and did not have a heartbeat; he needed immediate resuscitation. His brother, Alexander, was not breathing, either. Their lungs were underdeveloped, as were many other vital organs – even their skin.
“They looked like baby birds that have fallen out of a nest,” Melissa remembers.
When Life Flight® left the local hospital with the newborns, Melissa and her husband, Matthew, hadn’t even had the chance to hold them – and they didn’t know if they would ever have that opportunity.
“Unfortunately, there are no guarantees when babies who are that sick come to the NICU,” says Dr. James Cook, director of neonatology at Janet Weis Children’s Hospital. “We have the most advanced equipment and most skilled doctors in the region, but each of these preemies faced a tremendous battle. Our goal was to give them all the help they needed to keep fighting that battle – and Evan and Alexander were determined to win.”
It would be another month before Melissa and Matthew held their babies, and even then, it was only for moments at a time. But every moment gave them more hope that their family would be leaving the hospital together soon. The boys were slowly growing, gaining strength, day by day.
Then, just a few days shy of the original due date, Evan and Alexander were well enough to go home. They weighed just over 4 pounds each, and Melissa and Matthew proudly carried them out of the hospital, the twins’ matching sailor outfits far too big for their still-tiny bodies.
Now healthy youngsters, the boys don’t have much reason to think about those days when they faced so many obstacles. But they know the story, and every time Life Flight flies overhead, they remember what their mother told them.
They wave at the helicopter and say, “it’s OK babies. You’re going to the growing hospital. You’ll be fine.”
Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger provided funds for much of the NICU equipment that Evan, Alexander and many other children across the region have benefitted from, including infant resuscitators, incubators, monitors, ventilators and medication pumps.
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