Couple discovers exceptional care during high-risk pregnancy
Ashleigh and Brian Hipp couldn't wait to start a family. Like many first-time parents, they imagined an uneventful pregnancy, easy delivery and joyful homecoming. But their dreams were put on hold when Ashleigh began to experience pregnancy complications.
She was carrying twins and they were in grave danger. After an area physician referred the couple to advanced fetal care physician Carl Weiner, MD, at The University of Kansas Health System, Ashleigh was hospitalized and put on total bedrest at just 18 weeks.
"We really didn't know if our babies would survive," said Ashleigh. "Staying in bed for six weeks was difficult." Brian spent every night at the hospital, while family, friends and church members visited often. The odds of carrying their twins to full-term were very low, so each extra day counted as a victory.
At just 23 weeks and six days, Alexander and Andrew were born — each weighing a scant 1 lb, 3 oz., or just 1 oz. shy of the 20 oz. in a large coffee at Starbucks®. "My wedding band fit around each tiny arm like a bracelet," said Brian.
A long way to go
During the next 95 days, nurses, neonatologists, surgeons, feeding experts, occupational and respiratory therapists and many other professionals in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) worked together to give the boys a fighting chance.
"Almost every day, there was another complication," said Brian. Both boys suffered from patent ductus arteriosus, a common heart problem for premature babies, requiring cardiovascular surgery by Trip Zorn, MD. Alexander also experienced a spontaneous perforated colon, repaired by pediatric surgeon Kurt Schropp, MD.
"We wondered how someone so small could go through surgery," said Ashleigh. "The doctors reassured us with patience, kindness and information. We trusted them to do everything they could — and they did."
In fact, the Hipps praise the whole team. "The nurses and other experts were all great. We never worried when we went home to get some rest because we totally trusted the entire staff."
When Brian and Ashleigh walked out of the hospital with their 4-lb. boys, one had a heart monitor and one was on oxygen. After three months in the NICU, they were going home. "Believe it or not, it was hard to say goodbye!" said Ashleigh. "We felt so close to everyone, and we'll never forget all the people at The University of Kansas Health System who helped us."
Continued care for two toddlers
The twins, now 2, are happy, healthy and weigh 18 lbs. Alexander loves to climb stairs while Andrew likes to comb his hair. "I look at them," said Brian, "and I know without a doubt how lucky we are that this hospital is in Kansas City.
"To ensure their ongoing success, the boys will receive regular check-ups at the health system's Neonatal Medical Home until they're 5. It's one of the first such care centers in the country designed to handle the various needs of pre-term and at-risk newborns — all in one spot.
How appreciative is the new family? The Hipps contributed a generous estate gift to the NICU. "We have a lot of expenses right now, but we're trying to do whatever we can to help," said Brian with a smile.
Ashleigh agrees. "The way we feel about the doctors, nurses and staff goes beyond grateful. They saved our boys' lives."
To learn more about high-risk pregnancy care at The University of Kansas Health System, call 913-588-1227 or visit kansashealthsystem.com/womenshealth.
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