June 12, 2014 at 12:23 PM ET
Tiny twin preemies who were supposed to be born Wednesday, June 18, will still get to celebrate a milestone next week. The two boys are finally expected to go home after an unusual premature birth that saw one baby being delivered almost a month after his brother.
“They’re special. They’re warriors,” their mom Lindalva DaSilva, who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, told TODAY. “They’re both my heroes.”
The babies are expected to be discharged next week from the neonatal intensive care unit at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, where the saga began earlier this year.
DaSilva, 35, and her husband were elated when they found out they were having twins, due June 18. But just 24 weeks into the pregnancy, her water broke.
“I was in a panic. I thought I was going to lose the babies,” DaSilva recalled.
She arrived at Tufts on Feb. 27, where doctors gave her antibiotics, plus medicines that calm contractions, protect a baby’s brain and help a baby’s lungs mature, said Dr. Sabrina Craigo, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at Tufts Medical Center.
The first twin, Alexandre, was delivered on March 2 at 24 weeks and 5 days gestation. He weighed one and a half pounds. DaSilva was terrified of what his condition would be like, but she got her first piece of good news right away.
“I was relieved because I heard him crying,” she said. “If he cries that means he’s alive… they brought him for me to give a kiss and my first words were, ‘He’s too tiny.’”
Babies born that early have a 50-60 percent survival rate, Dr. Craigo said. Alexandre was seriously ill for the first few weeks of his life with respiratory problems that required a high-frequency ventilator.
So Dr. Craigo began to consider a plan that would delay the birth of the second baby as long as possible.
The approach, called delayed interval delivery, is rare. Dr. Craigo has seen 10 cases or fewer in her 20-plus years of practice. It’s only considered in extremely early deliveries of multiples and only if the labor calms down after the first baby is born and there are no signs of infection or any heavy bleeding, she said. DaSilva met all of those conditions.
Doctors left the placenta of the first baby inside her, gave her antibiotics and waited.
“We don’t really make it happen. We have to be ready for the opportunity, should it arise,” Dr. Craigo said.
“So I can’t say that I stopped anything. But that’s enough — if you can just hold off and not move too fast and give it that chance. And we didn’t know if we would gain a day or two days, or a week. At 24 weeks, every day is important.”
DaSilva stayed in the hospital for observation and everyone held their breath. Labor could re-occur at any time.
“I took everything day by day. It’s in God’s hands so don’t panic,” DaSilva recalled telling herself.
She and her doctors were stunned when her labor didn’t re-start for 24 more days. Ronaldo was born on March 26 at 28 weeks gestation, when babies have a 90 percent chance of survival. He weighed a pound more than his twin brother and did not require a ventilator.
Both twin boys have been in the NICU since birth, but they’re both doing well, Dr. Craigo said. Ronaldo weighs 7 pounds, while his older brother Alexandre is close to that weight, DaSilva added. They are breathing on their own and DaSilva is breastfeeding them.
“They’re perfect,” she said.
Still, the boys are going to be followed closely because they’re at risk for developmental issues over time, Dr. Craigo said.
Mom is already making plans for their birthdays. The main party will be held on Ronaldo’s birthday, but Alexandre will get his own cake 24 days earlier. He deserves that, she said.
The family has set up a website to help pay for the twins’ medical care and supplies.