Premature twins faced many issues

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Meyers are ambassador family for 2012 March of Dimes

Chad and Amber Myers were worried about their twin babies even before the boys were born in 2009.

Amber Myers holds Garrett in her hands not long after he and twin brother Cale were born prematurely.

“We were frightened,” Amber Myers said. “The only thing you think is ‘Are they going to live?’”

Myers, a Rochester-area resident born and raised in Austin, said 2-and-a-half-year-olds Cale and Garrett are healthy now, and the family is the ambassador for the 2012 Austin/Albert Lea March of Dimes. That wasn’t always the case for the couple’s only children.

The twins were born early, arriving in August rather than November. Myers was just 25 weeks into pregnancy when contractions began. The couple knew to be concerned about such an early birth, but remained excited at the birth of their children.

After an emergency Caesarean section, Amber gave birth, but the boys’ lungs were underdeveloped, and they looked small and sick.

“Their skin was so thin it was almost like you could see through them,” Myers said. Her husband’s wedding ring could fit all the way up to the shoulder on each baby’s arm, she added.

Doctors immediately connected the babies to a bunch of machines and took them to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Myers said. Numerous health issues and unexpected problems began to surface. It was the beginning of weeks of uncertainty over the twins’ survival.

Myers already knew from an ultrasound that Garrett would have a cleft lip. Then, on the third day after birth, a doctor said Cale would have to undergo emergency surgery. An X-ray showed he had necrotizing enterocolitis, a bowl disease.

Amber Myers places her hands over Garrett to show how small the baby was born.

A surgeon told Myers that Cale had three possible futures in light of the disease: he would either be fine, would survive but face gut problems for the rest of his life, or would die.

“All I could think of was, ‘my baby is going to die,’” Myers said. She was not able to see either of her children at the time. “It was such an awful feeling as a mother to not be able to be there for my newborn babies.”

While recovering from his first surgery, the disease resurfaced, and Cale had to undergo surgery again. Unable to drink breast milk, he had to return to a supplement called TPN that was toxic to his liver. He was on it for a longer period than newborns are supposed to be, and doctors worried his liver would shut down.

“It was the longest, most painful journey of my life,” Myers said. She felt like a nail in a piece of wood, trying to wiggle free but always pounded back into place by a big hammer. It felt like there was more bad news than good news, she said, and Cale never caught a break.

Myers had to serve as a nurse for her son. He faced a variety of other serious issues, including several infections and aspiration pneumonia.

At the same time, Garrett’s cleft lip operation went well, but he experienced immense trouble breathing. He had to be kept on a tube feeding him a high level of oxygen.

Matters worsened when doctors found Garrett had an internal infection. They administered an antibiotic that dealt with the infection, but Garrett faced other problems. He developed a double hernia, which had to be surgically repaired. Doctors pointed out a heart condition which was non-threatening now, but could prove problematic in the future.

After coming home from the hospital, there was a stretch of time when Garrett would occasionally stop breathing. Acting as a nurse once more, Myers said she would need to stimulate his breathing.

Through it all, Myer’s parents, Mark and Robyn Byers, and her sister, Ashley, were there to support her.

“At least one of them was at my house helping with the babies at all times; or we were in Austin at my mom’s house,” Myers said. “They were, and continue to be, my rock.” The twins’ great-grandparents, Dan Clayton and the late Ann Clayton, were also there for them.

Today, both Cale and Garrett are healthy toddlers, though each still has a bad immune system, Myers said. They catch colds and fevers often, especially when going to day care. Cale carries a scar on his abdomen that Myers called his “zipper.”

The March of Dimes does all the research for premature babies to live, and created the whole concept of the NICU, Myers said.

“Because of March of Dimes, the doctors knew exactly what to do,” she said.

“We help moms have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies,” the organization’s mission reads on its website.

Myers submitted the story of her twins to the March of Dimes. The organization nominated her, Chad and the twins its ambassador family for the Austin/Albert Lea March for Babies walk in Austin on April 14. The family will be present for the event.

Myers said she wasn’t sure anyone could understand what it was like without experiencing it firsthand. She felt helpless when she couldn’t hold or even touch her newborn babies, and struggled with the dual challenge of being a full-time nurse to the babies while learning more typical motherly actions like breast-feeding and diaper-changing.

“I believe I could write a book on our journey in the NICU and thereafter,” she said of the challenges and emotions she experienced. “I will be forever grateful to the March of Dimes for the work of the organization to give life to babies like mine.”

The Austin/Albert Lea March for Babies

When: Saturday, April 14, registration starts at 8 a.m., the walk begins at 9 a.m.
Where: Torge’s Live Sports Pub and Grill, 1701 Fourth St. NW in Austin
Who: All are welcome to walk, same-day registration allowed. Money raised benefits March of Dimes.
The annual March of Dimes event raises money for research and education to prevent health problems in newborns, treat babies born with illness and help mothers have full-term pregnancies. The six-mile walk route begins and ends at Torge’s. See www.marchforbabies.org for more information.

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