Mother of Quintuplets
Babies D & E Lost Early in Pregnancy
and Zoe Rose
Born December 20th, 2006 at 25 weeks gestation
Died February 16th, 2008
In July of 2006, my husband and I learned we were pregnant after two and a half grueling years of trying to conceive, with and without intervention. The initial joy was short-lived as the positive pregnancy test was VERY positive indeed. We were pregnant with quintuplets. What followed was a series of scientific discussions with various doctors all throwing grim statistics about morbidity and mortality of the babies and myself as well. There was continued urging to reduce to twins or a singleton. It was a decision I never imagined having to face and if faced with the same situation and the same choices laid out in front of me today, I would not do it again.
We did reduce to triplets and while some would say the reason I have any living children at all is because of this decision, I know in my heart that no one can say what would have or could have happened for sure. It is a horrible, gut-wrenching, awful decision to even be faced with. A decision with no guarantees of a “successful” outcome. This was our last chance at having children of our own and when told that I and the babies had only a 50% chance of surviving the pregnancy, nevermind the complications we would endure along the way and after birth…a 50% chance was just not good enough for me in my frame of mind at the time.
Of course, after the last 5 years of my life I now know there are no guarantees in life other than the assurance that God has been present during and throughout our challenges, tragedies, and triumphs. It is in His love and grace that I rest at night now…not always peacefully, but at least I no longer look in the mirror at myself in disgust by willfully making the choice that I did.
We spent the next several months of my pregnancy doing everything we could to provide the perfect environment for these babies to grow, shooting for that magic 34 week gestational time to deliver premature, but hopefully healthy little girls. On Friday, December 15, 2006, at exactly 25 weeks into my pregnancy, I was admitted to the High Risk Perinatal floor at Northside Hospital in Atlanta due to preeclampsia. Again, we and our doctors did everything we could to prolong my pregnancy; however, we were only able to buy five more days. On Wednesday, December 20, 2006 we welcomed Avery Ruth (born 1lb 4oz and 10” long), Lily Anne (born 1lb 6 oz and 12” long) and Zoe Rose (born 1lb 10oz and 12” long); their combined birth weight was a mere 4 lbs 4oz. Avery and Lily were quickly whisked to the NICU but were able to be stabilized shortly after birth. It took the doctors five long hours to stabilize Zoe. She was born with such terrible lung disease and an open PDA that she had to be intubated and put on the high frequency ventilator.
Our team of neonatologists were quick to point out that while the babies were stable, Zoe was by far the worst off and was just barely hanging on. In her first four weeks of life she endured four chest tubes, a PDA ligation surgery to close that particular valve, multiple medications to keep her “snowed” (paralyzed) so she would not expend any energy fighting the vent, and her organs began to shut down because she could only be fed IV fluids. After seven weeks she was able to move from the high frequency ventilator to the conventional vent, on which she remained for an additional 7 weeks. We were not allowed to hold her until she was two months old and during those two months we could hardly even speak out loud to her for fear of disrupting her very fragile medical state.
Zoe’s sister’s, Avery and Lily, came home after a fairly uneventful four month stay in the NICU, with feeding tubes, apnea monitors, and multiple medications. Zoe had to spend an additional 5 ½ months away from her sisters. She was steroid, oxygen, and feeding tube dependent, had tracheomalacia and a blocked vocal chord due to prolonged intubation, and had severe bilateral hearing loss. She eventually made it to the step down nursery and while the above description of her condition may paint a picture of a child in a vegetative state, Zoe was far from that. Once her sedation was weaned and she was on the nasal canula, her personality emerged in full force. She became the love of the NICU with nurses, therapists, nutritionists, volunteers, and audiologists all stopping by her room daily to get one of her heart warming and winning smiles. She, like her sisters, was truly a miracle baby and finally, on October 7, 2007 we were able to bring Zoe home.
She came home with quite a bit of medical equipment, home nursing care, multiple therapy follow-ups, and endless specialist appointments; but still she maintained her vivacious personality and through early intervention hearing loss education she was even able to start communicating with us. Zoe responded positively to her physical therapy as well and by February 2008, at 13 months old, she was able to sit up unassisted.
Bright futures seemed possible for all three of our girls as they continued to grow and thrive at home. We kept them quarantined through the Fall and Winter (RSV season) for fear of needlessly exposing them to infections and had a very short list of “approved” visitors and a very long list of infection control procedures to follow when in our home. Despite all the precautions we took, she contracted the flu and pneumonia and spent five days in the Children’s Hospital. She was able to come home for a day and a half before we had to rush her back to the hospital due to increasing oxygen requirements.
Zoe went in to irreversible shock, became septic, was in respiratory failure, and one by one her organs began shutting down. She looked much like she did at birth hooked up to countless tubes and wires administering life-saving medications and therapies in a last ditch effort to save her. Zoe coded 5 times over the course of 7 hours. The last time they lost her heart rate the doctor simply said “Do you want us to keep working or do you want to hold her?” My husband and I didn’t discuss it, we didn’t even look at each other, we just both said “We want to hold her”. She didn’t even take a final breath in our arms because the ventilator had been breathing for her. I tried to rip her from the hospital bed while nurses held me back and swiftly disconnected all the tubes and wires. They handed her to me and for the first time in her 14 months of life we held her without anything attached to her keeping her alive. That was February 16, 2008. A day etched so deeply in my heart and on my mind forever.
Keira blogs at http://3sorrells.blogspot.com
You can visit the foundation’s website created in Zoe’s honor at www.zoerose.org
Keira can be contacted at email@example.com