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The Flight That Led To Healthy Twins 

What started with preterm labor, and an emergency helicopter trip to SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital - St. Louis turned into a healthy set of twin baby girls for this Carbondale, Illinois family.

Following a recent miscarriage Julie and Kyle were nervously excited when they found out they were pregnant with twins. “I was worried about the health of our babies since I had gotten pregnant so quickly after a miscarriage,” recalls Julie.

In July 2011, when she was 25-weeks into her pregnancy, Julie went into preterm labor, and was quickly airlifted to SSM Health St. Mary’s for treatment. Upon her arrival the SSM Health St. Louis Fetal Care Institute team, diagnosed Julie with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). “My first reaction was shock and fear, but there was also a little relief when I learned the likely reason for why I went into preterm labor, and that it was something that could be treated,” she remembers.

TTTS is a prenatal condition in which twins share unequal amounts of the placenta’s blood supply, resulting in the two fetuses growing at different rates. Because one twin has less blood flow, this baby grows slower, is smaller. The baby acts dehydrated and cannot make much urine. Thus, the bladder is small or invisible and the amniotic fluid begins to decline. The other twin, however, has too much blood flow. It grows faster and is larger than the other twin. This larger baby tries to urinate the excess body fluids, so it has an enlarged bladder and too much amniotic fluid.

The St. Louis Fetal Care Institute team determined that the girls' best chance for survival was to have fetal surgery where a laser is used to block the shared blood vessels in the placenta. During the surgery, known as a fetoscopic laser photocoagulation, the surgeon inserts a pencil-tip-sized telescope in the mother’s uterus and examines the entire placenta to find the crossing blood vessels. Once these are all mapped, a tiny laser fiber is inserted and laser energy is used to stop the blood flow between the twins. Separating the twin blood flow could be compared to separating the placenta, allowing each twin to develop independently.

“After the surgery, I was scared and uncertain for a long time. But, at each subsequent check-up the girls kept improving and improving, growing and growing,” says Julie. Over the next 11-weeks, Julie stayed on bed rest to give the twin girls the chance to grow and develop. On October 11, 2011, Gwendolyn and Evelyn made their entrance to the world via cesarean section. “Both girls came home after only six days in the hospital. They are healthy and strong as bulls!” says Julie.

Now that everyone is home and healthy Julie and Kyle enjoy taking the girls on walks and singing and dancing together. The girls are quickly growing on a path to success. “My little girls are proof that medical miracles really do happen,” she says.

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