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The Luck of the Irish

They say bad luck comes in threes, but for Erin and Jon Strand of Fargo, luck came in twos on St. Patrick’s Day 2011.

Twin boys Jack and Sam were born at healthy weights and nearly full-term. Erin carried them all the way to 36½ weeks.

But when their twins were hospitalized in Sanford Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit?

“We figured once we were past 32 weeks we were in the clear,” says Erin. “We were really surprised they needed the NICU, but felt very lucky it was there.”

Known for providing highly specialized care to premature infants, the 33-bed NICU helps full-term babies, too.

Specialized teams in place and ready

Jon knew the birth of their twin boys might be more than he expected when he entered the operating room.

“I was surprised by all the people -- anesthesiologists, doctors, nurses, teams from the Family Birth Center, teams from the NICU,” he says. “That’s when it hit me this C-section wasn’t just a routine procedure.”

Jack was born at 6:11 p.m.

“He wasn’t breathing. That was definitely scary, but all the help he needed was right there,” recalls Jon. “Everyone was well-prepared.”

Then came Sam. “He cried right away, but he, too, needed some breathing help,” he says.

Two specially trained teams -- one for each baby -- played key roles. Each team included a neonatologist, a neonatal respiratory care therapist and a neonatal intensive care nurse.

“We felt fortunate our obstetrician Dr. (Rebekah) Tompkins was so proactive,” says Erin. “She made sure the teams were in the OR and ready to go -- just in case.”

NICU expertise is readily available to all babies born at Sanford. The unit is located in close proximity to the Sanford Family Birth Center. The expertise is also available through neonatal transport teams that travel to hospitals throughout the region.

High-level care continues

Erin recovered in the Family Birth Center while the twins got settled in their side-by-side bassinets in the NICU.

“There were still a lot of people doing lots of things,” Jon says. “It was pretty amazing to see all that went into delivering these guys and giving them the healthiest start possible.”

Along with expertly trained staff, the NICU has advanced technology specially sized for premature and critically ill babies. Jack needed a high-frequency ventilator to help him breathe. Sam needed CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) support.

Erin received progress reports from Jon and the nurses, and the next morning was able to go in and see the boys.

“That was hard,” she says. “Here were these brand new babies we thought we’d get to take right home. But we soon realized there were many NICU families with far more challenging journeys. Jack and Sam kept making steady progress -- no backtracking.”

Sam was able to go home after five days, Jack after eight.

Happy, healthy family

“It’s a whirlwind around here,” says Erin, sitting on the couch with their 6-week-old twins -- healthy and growing. Jon sits on the floor entertaining big sisters Mallory, 5, and Anna, 2.

Erin’s on leave from teaching third grade at Nativity in Fargo and Jon will soon take a month’s leave from Microsoft.

“He’s awesome,” says Erin, nodding toward Jon. “He definitely took over in caring for the two older ones.”

Jon sports a Twins baseball cap and Anna wears a Twins T-shirt. But the twins that take top spot in the Strand family? They’re dressed alike and sleeping in the arms of their mom.

Call it luck -- but it’s a whole lot more.

Posted Date: May 2011