Our StoriesTouching Stories from members of TLC
Jack and Joseph Shoemaker
Our story spans the emotions of the hospital; happiness and sadness; laughter and tears; joy and pain; life and death.
In February of 2002, Shannon and I found out that we were going to be the proud parents of twins. We went through many emotions including: “Are we going to be able to handle two babies?” “We are so lucky that we get to have two children at once.”
The sonogram performed at the eighth week of pregnancy confirmed that we were going to have twins. The membrane separating them was extremely thin and they were sharing a single placenta therefore most likely they were going to be identical. Everything was going great – Shannon was gaining weight and the babies were growing well, a good sign.
Between the 18th and 24th week of pregnancy, a sonogram was performed every two weeks to check for twin-to-twin transfusion. Twin-to-twin transfusion occurs when one twin donates blood to the other twin causing the donor twin to become anemic and the recipient twin to have a high red blood count. Both babies continued to gain weight equally well so it did not appear that twin-to-twin transfusion was taking place. By this time, we had learned that our twins were boys.
Around 26 weeks of gestation, Shannon started to gain excessive weight. Her legs and ankles swelled so that her ankles would swell over her shoes, and her back hurt to where she could barely stand. She began to feel less kicking on one side and we started to worry since these symptoms were signs of a possible premature birth. Shannon’s obstetrician told her that these symptoms were to be expected with twins. Shannon came home from the obstetrician’s office quite upset. Four days later, Shannon’s bag of water ruptured at only 27-1/2 weeks of pregnancy. We called our obstetrician who told us to go to North Shore University Hospital’s Emergency Room. While in the Labor and Delivery Suite, Shannon was hooked up to fetal monitors. The nurse found only one heartbeat. We were told not to worry since the fetal monitors in there were not sensitive at detecting fetal heart rates. We were sent for a Level 2 sonogram. When we returned from the sonogram, we were informed that we had lost one of the twins, Baby B whom we named Joseph. Since my wife was already having contractions, the obstetrician decided to perform an emergency Cesarean section. This was not the way it was supposed to happen. We were supposed to be having two babies not one. Why were we being robbed of the joy of a twin birth? All of these thoughts were going through our minds.
At 3:01 p.m. on 7/1/02, Jack was born. We heard him cry and we cried. The nurses showed him to us and allowed us to kiss him before they whisked him away to the Neonatal ICU. He weighed 2lbs. 12oz. at birth, but within one week, he was only 2 lbs. Joseph was delivered at 2 lbs. 14 oz. Both Jack and Joseph were baptized that day. Joseph was a beautiful baby. We later found out that we lost him due to an acute twin-to-twin transfusion.
Shannon was still recovering when I was able to see Jack for the first time. I was shocked when I set foot into his room in the NICU. His entire body was covered with wires, leads and tubes. He was so small, yet so strong. As Jack went through the steps of the NICU, Shannon and I had no idea what to expect. At first, the various beeps and buzzes from the room alarmed us. We could never tell if it was Jack or one of the other babies in the room. After awhile all of the noises seemed to disappear. Jack went from one breathing apparatus to another before he was removed from all of them. He was treated for jaundice with phototherapy; he was treated with indomethacin, a drug to close his Patent Ductus Arteriosus (an artery that connects the aorta to the artery going to the lungs); and was also given antibiotics for a Urinary Tract Infection. Milk formulas were switched several times since he had a milk protein allergy.
Through all this, Shannon and I remained a part of the decision-making process with the doctors and nurses in the NICU. We used the full resources of the NICU. The Neonatal Health Care Team consisted not only of physicians and nurses, but also Social Workers and consultants. In the Family Room there were parent-dedicated computers for our use. Whenever we had a question, we asked. Jack remained in the NICU for 2 months and 6 days. We were at the hospital twice a day during that time. He weighed 4lbs. 11 oz. at discharge. He is now 8 months old and weighs 18lbs. 5oz.
If there is one thing that Shannon and I can say to other parents: Never stand aside. That child is yours and this sometimes can be forgotten. Do everything that you possibly can. Be part of his/her life in the NICU. Bathe him, dress him, and use your own blankets and clothes for the baby. You are experiencing a special part of the baby’s life. You being there for the baby not only bonds you to the baby, but also helps the baby grow. They know your touch and they know your voice. We love Jack that much more because we saw what he went through.
When Jack gets old enough, he will know about his guardian angel, Joseph. Shannon’s aunt said that every time a baby smiles they are talking to an angel. That means that Jack already knows about Joseph.