Twins spend holidays at home after surviving lethal bond - WNEM TV 5

Twins spend holidays at home after surviving lethal bond

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Courtesy: University of Michigan Courtesy: University of Michigan

'Tis the season of giving, and one local couple is grateful their twins were given the gift of life. 

Sisters Zonabelle and Patricia are celebrating their first Christmas at home thanks to a specialized fetal procedure performed at the University of Michigan. 

Scott and Jennifer of Saginaw learned they were adding to their family in May of 2015. While they were hoping to give their son Alexander a sibling, they were shocked to find out they were growing by more than just one. 

“The doctor told us ‘there’s another one in there.’ Surprise. Twins,” Jennifer said. “We were blown away.”

Their shock turned to heartbreaking news when during a second trimester ultrasound, the couple learned the baby girls had a rare condition known as twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. 

Doctors explained the babies were in two separate sacs, but shared one placenta. Instead of getting equal amounts of blood and nutrition, one had become a blood donor to the other. The condition affects 10 to 15 percent of share placenta pregnancies. 

Without intervention, the girls had a more than 90 percent chance of dying, experts said. 

The couple was referred to the University of Michigan's fetal therapy team, the only center in the state and among roughly 20 in the country. 

“I was just numb. As far as we knew, they had been doing perfectly up until then, so to suddenly hear that your babies might die...It was like getting our hearts ripped out," Jennifer said. 

Just days after the diagnosis, a team of surgeons inserted an instrument the size of a pinky nail to make tiny incisions in Jennifer's uterus.. The surgeon used laser therapy to disconnect more than 30 blood vessels and drain some of the extra amniotic fluid putting the girls in danger. 

Then, the couple waited. 

“I was patting my belly telling them ‘you can do it,’” Jennifer remembered.

The next day, doctors found both babies had survived the surgery and their conditions were improving. 

However, their fight wasn't over yet.

The girls were born prematurely at 26 weeks. At about 2 1/2 pounds, they each spent roughly 90 days in the hospital at the neonatal intensive care unit at C.S Mott Children's Hospital, as well as their local hospital in Saginaw. 

This Christmas, the smiley toddlers have stockings with their names hanging over the fireplace and presents to open with their big brother. They have the same blue eyes, a baby babble only they understand and a love for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. 

“We didn’t think we’d ever have a normal life. We thought it was over,” Jennifer said. “Someday, we will tell them their story. How hard they fought to be here. How lucky we were to have the phenomenal team at Michigan devoted to saving their lives."

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