JD and Rebecca Cahall have been fighting for their babies for many years. After having a difficult time conceiving, fertility treatments ultimately led to Rebecca’s ovarian cancer diagnosis. Her cancer could easily have been overlooked without the regular monitoring that comes with fertility treatments.
After Rebecca won her battle with ovarian cancer, she and JD had a successful round of IVF and conceived their beautiful baby girls, Maggie and Shelby. Being pregnant with twins, they knew there was a chance their girls would require care in the NICU. What they were not prepared for was how early the girls would arrive and in what condition.
At 27 weeks, on JD’s birthday, Rebecca was admitted to GBMC with preeclampsia, a life-threatening hypertensive disorder that can occur during pregnancy, and the twins arrived shortly after. Maggie and Shelby were born with Twin Anemia Polycythemia Sequence (TAPS), a very rare condition that occurs when there are unequal blood counts between twins.
At their gestational age, the twins should each have had 50 red blood cells. Maggie, the donor twin, was born at 2lbs 4oz with only 15 red blood cells. She was “as pale as a ghost.” Shelby, the recipient twin, born at 2lbs 8oz, had 75 red blood cells and “was so dark, her blood was like sludge,” shared Rebecca. This meant neither of the twins was receiving the appropriate amount of oxygen and nutrients to develop properly.
During their 7-week stay in GBMC’s NICU, Maggie received multiple blood transfusions and Shelby’s blood was diluted (taken out and replaced with saline in small amounts). They were both on oxygen to support their breathing and were treated extensively by respiratory therapist Dan Blue.
Rebecca and JD visited the twins twice a day and were so grateful the girls were able to share a room. COVID-19 restrictions were still in place, meaning “one parent per baby” and no outside visitors. Because they had twins, they could visit together, something other NICU parents did not experience during the peak of the pandemic.
Rebecca and JD shared that the NICU staff become like their family. Nurses and clinical staff kept the couple updated, knew how to identify each twin, and treated the girls as if they were their own babies. When they were discharged to Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital for another eight weeks, Rebecca cried at the thought of leaving the wonderful team at GBMC.
Rebecca and JD gave some advice to future NICU parents, “Just keep going! Every small victory is a victory.” They recently celebrated the girls’ first birthday and look forward to joining the NICU team at the upcoming Father’s Day 5K on June 19 at GBMC.
You can support Maggie, Shelby and families like theirs by registering for or donating to the Father’s Day 5K.