Tiny but tough
Lincoln and Eleanor Uecker are tiny but tough.
Born last fall at 23 weeks, the pair has been home in Columbus for three months making steady gains.
Lincoln, who weighed 1 pound and .43 ounces at birth, now tips the scales at 12 pounds. His sister is up from her birth weight of 2 pounds and 2 ounces to 10 pounds 6 ounces.
They smile at their parents and Lincoln is rolling over. All true miracles considering that doctors told Aaron Uecker and Rachel Geehan their twins stood just a 1 percent change of survival when Rachael went into labor last fall.
The couple, who had trouble conceiving, embraced that 1 percent and was flown to Denver last September. Lincoln was born on Sept. 24 at 23 weeks and five days. Eleanor remained in utero for 21 more days before her arrival.
Their physical challenges are many, as both suffer from minor chronic lung disease. Lincoln has enlarged ventricles in his brain from bleeds that must be regularly monitored. Eleanor has two heart defects --Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) in which the Patent ductus does not close after birth, and atrial septal defect (ASD) in which there is a hole in the heart between the two upper chambers.
Geehan explains that the two defects work against Eleanor, resulting in pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the heart. The hope is medication will provide enough relief until Eleanor is big enough for open heart surgery.
Because they are more susceptible to everyday kind of ailments, all of their time is spent at home with only close family members and doctors, with little outside contact.
But they are growing.
“The only times I really leave the house is when they have doctors appointments,” said Geehan. “I have ran to the store a few times for prescriptions, and I have gone to Billings a couple times which then my mom watches them.”
But neither Geehan nor Uecker have any complaints. Only gratitude.
Their son and daughter are home, growing and continuing to make their parents fall deeper in love with them with each passing day.
The support the couple has received from the community has made a difference.
“The day we came home was one of the happiest and most stressful days of our lives, but when we got into town, we were escorted by the sheriff’s office/police department with red, white, and blue lights lighting our way home,” Geehan recalled.
“We could not believe our community was standing in the frigid cold weather with signs welcoming us home, and shouting out love.”
Geehan said there is no way the family will ever be able to repay “everyone who has shown us such a great amount of love and support this past year.”
“We know without the prayers, the great doctors and nurses in Denver, and of course Dr. Damron we would be down a different path that is unbearable to think about,” said Rachel. “Dr. Damron did only give us a 1 percent chance, but he went above and beyond to make that 1 percent chance was possible. For this Dr. Damron, we owe you our beating hearts.”
The family’s road has already been a long one and yet a longer one lies ahead.
“But when you live in as amazing of a community as we do, it makes it that much easier,” said Geehan.
Rachael has tried to keep people updated with the twins’ progress through Facebook postings. The following are some excerpts:
Feb.1: Twins had their first doctors appointments in Billings that went without incident. Testing was scheduled for Lincoln’s brain and kidney scan and another echo to check out Eleanor’s heart.
Feb. 19: For just the second time since arriving home in Columbus, the family ventured out to the twins second doctors visits. Both babies had gained weight. Eleanor had an echo and an EKG done of her enlarged heart as two defects had worked against her lungs. Heart surgery will moist likely be needed, but she is too small.
March 1: “Little man” Lincoln starts to roll over.
March 3: Back to the doctors where tests showed Lincoln still had enlarged ventricles in his brain that were unchanged from the previous scan. A physical therapist comes once a week to make sure the babies are “meeting milestones” and to identify any “intervention therapies” they might need down the road.
March 7: Back to the pediatric cardiologist for Eleanor to check on her heart condition, which Rachael describes as being “like high blood pressure in your heart.” The hope is medication will provide enough relief until Eleanor is big enough for open heart surgery.
March 20: The moment every parent treasures...babies smiling back.
April 1: Lincoln now tips the scales at 11 pounds and Eleanor is 9 pounds 6 ounces.
April 14: Lincoln continues to make gains, putting on 7 ounces in seven days. Eleanor was having a tougher time, with just a 2 ounce weight gain in three days believed to be due to her heart having to work too hard. Increased oxygen and quadrupling her diuretics were done.
April 15: “If someone seven months ago would have said I would be spoon feeding them, I would have thought they were ignorant. Watching them always be tube fed was the only thing I could see. I couldn’t imagine changing them, feeding them, or touching them without being told when and how. Buuuuttttt here we are. It may seem a little early, but you only live once, and we are liiiiiiiiving!! (and it’s only a tsp).”
“I cry just about every night, looking at these two, thinking about how lucky we are. Staying at the NICU as long as we were there, a lot of things that people don’t know exist, we saw happen. Rooms filled with babies weighing 1lb, that the next morning would be empty. A girl out in the hall trying to get a mom to hold her baby that had died. Code blues daily (heck, alot of the resuscitation came from Lincolns bed) Other moms whos babies also had grade 3 brain bleeds and took the choice to take their babies off the vent. Seeing new moms come in and knowing their own personal hell had just started. Can’t even count how many times I would have to stand by Eleanors bed while Lincoln turned blue, watching the nurses and Drs flipping Lincoln over from back to belly, doing chest compressions, bagging him, then seeing his little body bruised all over from their work. I can still hear babies crying and the constant alarms that never stop. Meeting other moms at the Ronald McDonald House and being so grateful that your baby doesn’t have the health issues theirs has, while still praying yours lives another day. At the RMH I saw toddlers, and teenagers with bald heads. As beautiful as it is there, it is a house of pain. Everyone has sick loved ones fighting for their lives. I am just saying we are lucky and I just love these two so much.”
-Rachel Geehan’s March 22 Facebook post