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Day of Champions

Jeff Gould knew his 6-year-old sons were pretty good hitters so he challenged them: Hit the ball over the backyard fence and you get one toy on your wish list.

With double enthusiasm, twins Jack and Joe took him on.

With Dad pitching and Joe catching, Jack went first. On the fourth hit, the ball sailed over the fence.

“Homerun!” the twins yelled.

Joe’s up next. After 10 pitches, he sent the ball over.

And Jeff? He’s out two new toys.

“Unless we get a bigger yard, that’s the end of giving toys for homeruns,” he says laughing.

Years ago, an even more amazing “homerun” happened at Sanford Children’s Hospital. Introducing our 2012 North Dakota Children’s Miracle Network champions!

Pregnancy takes an unexpected turn

For months Sarah Gould’s pregnancy went well. But at 23 weeks, she knew something was wrong.

An ultrasound revealed Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome -- a rare disorder in which identical twins share connected blood vessels, resulting in dangerously uneven blood flow. Years ago, TTTS led to fetal death.

Thanks to advances in technology, Sarah was able to undergo a laser procedure to disconnect the problematic vessels. Although successful, the procedure increased the risk of premature delivery.

Despite five weeks' strict bed rest at home, Sarah’s water broke at 27 weeks. Efforts to delay birth continued at Sanford Family Birth Center. That’s when Sarah and Jeff learned about the highly specialized care at Sanford Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

A team like no other

Sarah was unable to tour the NICU in advance, so the NICU doctors came to her -- in her hospital room.

“They were wonderful,” she says. “They described all the different scenarios so we knew what to expect. We had confidence our boys would get the best of care.”

Born Jan. 11, 2006, Jack weighed 2 pounds, 1 ounce; Joe weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces. Each had his own NICU team readily available at delivery. Joe wasn’t breathing and needed resuscitation. Jack had life-threatening problems in the days that followed including a blood infection, kidney failure and a heart defect.

The NICU had exactly what these tiny warriors needed, including two key pieces of equipment purchased with Children’s Miracle Network donations:

    Oscillators -- high-frequency ventilators that help premature babies with underdeveloped lungs.
    Giraffe beds -- specially designed warming isolettes that allow preemies to stay in one comfortable environment for most of their care.

But it wasn’t just equipment that made the difference.

“The NICU staff was incredible. They were like our extended family, with each nurse becoming like a second mom,” says Sarah.

The toughest

On Feb. 4, Jack’s condition took a grave turn. Because of severe kidney failure, he was expected to die within hours. Jeff had one request: hold the babies -- together.

“It took half the NICU staff, but they made it work -- tubes and all,” says Jeff. “Jack and Joe hadn’t been together since birth.”

That’s when something happened that still makes Jeff wonder…

“Jack was so very sick. I remember I was about to give him back to his nurse, when Joey reached over and touched his head,” recalls Jeff. “At the time I didn’t give it much thought -- now it’s surreal.”

To the surprise of many, Jack bounced back. Two days later he was strong enough to undergo surgery to repair his heart defect. Today he’s followed by pediatric cardiologist Dr. Matthew Trefz.

After 90 days, both boys went home from the NICU. Joe was later diagnosed with hemiplegia -- a condition similar to mild cerebral palsy. Under the direction of physical medicine and rehab specialist Dr. William Klava, Joe received outpatient physical and occupational therapy through Sanford Children’s Therapy.

Children’s Miracle Network dollars helped purchase much of the equipment that made therapy fun for Joe.

“Jack and Joe’s Day”

An expansive, low-to-the-ground wood table fills the dining room at the Gould home in Fargo. It’s a special place where kindergartners Jack and Joe create art projects and do homework.

The twins have a special day, too.

“Feb. 4 is ‘Jack and Joe’s Day’ and we celebrate it every year,” says Jeff.

With Jeff in charge, the boys take the day off from school, eat any food they want, play whiffle ball ’til they’re sick of it and watch movies. And it all starts with early morning Mass.

“If someone had told me six years ago that this is what I’d get, I’d have said you’re crazy -- there’s not a chance,” says Jeff, watching the boys play. “We’re unbelievably fortunate to have Sanford Children’s in our community. Without that place, we wouldn’t have our boys.”

Congratulations to best friends Jack and Joe -- champions on their day … and every day!

Posted Date: April 2012