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A Dose of Faith and Hope

Faith and Hope Waldner are on the move.

With matching ladybug dresses and pageboy haircuts, the identical twin sisters bounce balls across the floor before running off to climb on the slide and explore every inch of their back yard.

As Charity Waldner watches her almost two-year-old daughters play, she remembers the worrisome months before they were born. The little girls who happily babble together today as they pick up toys were in grave danger from a condition that affects only identical twins.

“Our pastor calls them our miracle babies,” says Charity, holding one of the girls on her lap for a few moments. “They really are a miracle to us.”

Surprising news

Before the girls and their older brother, Isaac, were born, Charity was diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder. From the start, she did her prenatal care with all three children at Sanford Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

During her first pre-natal appointment with the girls, doctors couldn’t confirm the pregnancy. They told her that either she had suffered a miscarriage or it was too early to tell.

When she returned for a second appointment, she brought her husband with her for support. As the technician slid the ultrasound transducer across her stomach, the couple watched the screen intently looking for signs of a baby. Instead, they saw twins.

“I saw two little circles,” Charity says. “We started laughing. We were just in shock.”

The situation changes

Visiting the ultrasound lab every couple of weeks became a regular part of Charity’s routine. So when she went in for a routine scan 22 weeks into the pregnancy, she could tell something was wrong by the way everyone was reacting.

“You get to know the technicians pretty well,” Charity said. “I asked how everything was looking and the answer was, ‘the doctor will be in soon.’”

Her Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, Peter Van Eerden, MD, explained the scan was showing signs of twin to twin transfusion, a condition where blood flow in the vessels that connect the twins becomes unbalanced. The condition could put both twins in jeopardy, with one baby producing too much amniotic fluid and the other too little.

Twin to twin transfusion can occur only with identical twin fetuses who share one placenta, two amniotic sacs and one chorion, the outer layer of the amniotic sac. The rare condition, which can develop at any time during the pregnancy, only happens in about 15 to 20 percent of cases where those conditions are present.

Sanford specialists confirmed Hope was the “donor” twin and Faith was the “recipient” twin. The girls were growing unevenly and more dangerously, Faith’s heart was getting too large while Hope’s was too small.

Two days later, Charity was on a plane to go to the Fetal Care Center of Cincinnati, a facility nationally known for specializing in surgical treatment for twin to twin transfusion.

A chance at life

Specialists told the Waldners that on a scale of one to five, with five being the most severe, the girls were at a 3.9, their mother said. While there were risks involved in treatment, without intervention both girls would be sure to die.

“We went into surgery the next day,” she said. “It was just in the nick of time.”

Surgeons performed a procedure with an amniotic needle, draining off four pounds of excess fluid to restore the balance between the two girls and creating five holes between the babies’ amniotic sacs to let the fluid flow freely. Using a laser, they closed off 57 blood vessels between the girls to allow them to develop independently.

After returning home to Sioux Falls, Charity was put on bed rest in attempt to keep her from delivering too early. At 32 weeks, the girls were born, on July 18, 2009, their father’s birthday.

The girls were close in size, with Faith weighing four pounds, 13 ounces and Hope weighing an even four pounds. The twins had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for a few more weeks – 35 days for Faith and 42 for Hope – before they could go home.

Today, the girls show no signs of their in-utero problems. Hope, the “donor” twin, is a little smaller than her sister, but makes up for it with a feisty, sassy personality, her mother says. “She was the fighter from the start,” her mother.

Faith is the quieter twin, more likely to break into tears in a new situation or approach life with a shy smile. The girls like to play dress up, share a “big girl bed” and chatter together in a language all their own.

“It’s a pretty lively place around here,” their mother says, as the girls and their almost four-year-old brother, Isaac, toss balls together in the living room.

After all of the excitement before their birth, it only made sense to name them Hope and Faith, their mother says. The family is assured the care of their doctors and the prayers of families and friends allowed the girls to be treated and grow into who they are today.

“When you have twin girls with this kind of story, what else would you name them?” says Charity, with a laugh.

Posted Date: July 2011