87 Days in the NICU

It was a picture-perfect pregnancy for twins, until it wasn’t. Sure, mom-to-be Ashley Fant had some discomfort along the way but she remembers remaining active and experienced no morning sickness into her third trimester. Then, at 27 gestational weeks she began spotting and having back pain. A visit to the doctor showed Ashley had a shortened cervix and was in the midst of contractions. Instead of a scheduled glucose test, the 29-year-old was placed immediately on bed rest at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano for what she thought would amount to about a six-week hospital stay.

The change in plans left Ashley feeling very unprepared and overwhelmed. She wouldn’t be able to see her dogs for a long time, she hadn’t lined up a long-term sub as a teacher and she didn’t have anything packed yet for the hospital. Once on a magnesium drip, Ashley’s contractions began to slow and she tried to get used to life on the Antepartum unit at Texas Health Plano.

“Everyone from the hospital was coming in to see me: NICU staff, anesthesiologist, high risk specialists… I told them all the same thing, ‘It’s nice to meet you; I’ll see you in six to eight weeks,’” Ashley recalled. “I sent my husband to get some essentials — my toothbrush, contact case and glasses, my iPad and such. I guess you could say we were just starting to wrap our heads around thinking about a long-term plan when Knox put his foot through my cervix and changed the entire game plan, again.”

Ashley’s six weeks on bed rest turned into six hours. Identical twins Knox and Steele Fant were born via an emergency cesarean section. Knox weighed in at 2 pounds and 4 ounces; Steele was a little bulkier at 2 pounds and 9 ounces. It was Ashley’s 30th birthday.

Fortunately, Ashley’s husband Jonathan had made it back just in time and was able to take some photos of the boys as they were whisked off to the hospital’s Level IIIB Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for close monitoring and breathing assistance. Ashley’s first glimpse of her sons would be through the pictures her husband had taken and she wouldn’t get to hold either of them until their one-week birthday.

Steele was a good feeder and grower, and Ashley and Jonathan came to call him their little linebacker. Knox, on the other hand, gave the couple a few scares. Early on, he wasn’t producing enough white blood cells and required several blood transfusions. The NICU staff had prepared the couple for this possibility and explained the procedure thoroughly to them.

“Nurse Shellie Everhart became an amazing ally for us especially during the early days,” Ashley said. “She gave me a big hug and really tried to walk me through everything. Courtney Sanders got our boys adjoining PODS so we didn’t have to choose between our two babies and could do Kangaroo time together as a family. She also gave me the most wonderful gift. The day I had to go back to work, I got to the hospital around 4:45 a.m. Courtney had moved the CPAP machines around so that I could hold both of my children together for the first time. They were six weeks old and hadn’t met each other yet. For the rest of my life I will never forget that moment. There was nothing better for the soul.”

“Mary Wikenhofer and Laura Grubbs were great advocates for our family in the NICU as well. I knew when I had to be at work, those two nurses were loving on the boys. And besides dealing with checklists, the lactation specialist helped me figure out feeding and pumping schedules. But the one thing I LOVED above all about Texas Health Plano was that the nurses really let us be hands on. I was constantly told that I knew my babies better than anyone and when we were there, the nurses had us do EVERYTHING we possibly could for the boys. Because of this, we felt well-prepared when we finally went home. These amazing people are such angels,” she added.

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