Marija and Dan Sparano welcomed identical twin daughters, Emma and Nina, on May 18, 2022.
“Little did we know at that time, the moment of their birth was the last time they would be in the same room for over 11 months; 340 days to be exact,” Dan, 36, wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.
Nina, who was born with a birth defect called Pierre Robin sequence, a rare condition that causes head and facial anomalies, was whisked to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York City. The sisters wouldn’t see each other again for nearly a year.
“For the first few weeks, I couldn’t look at Nina without crying. I just wanted her to be with Emma,” Marija, 37, tells TODAY.com.
On April 24, Nina and Emma were finally reunited at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, New York. Marija, an auditor at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says she spent the morning crying “happy tears.”
“For the first few weeks, I couldn’t look at Nina without crying. I just wanted her to be with Emma.”
“I was crying before we even got in the car,” Marija says.
During their heartwarming reunion, Emma’s music teacher played guitar and sang an original song about sisters, as the twins kicked their legs and smiled. Marija says Emma was pulling on Nina, who has a tracheostomy to help her breathe and a feeding tube for eating.
“They kept trying to touch each other,” Marija says. “Nina’s speech therapist told me that it’s a sign of love and affection.”
Pierre Robin sequence, also known as Pierre Robin syndrome, is a condition characterized by an underdeveloped jaw, a cleft palate and a tongue that rests too far back in the mouth, according to Dr. David Staffenberg, a craniofacial surgeon at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.
“If the lower jaw is too small, which is what we frequently see with Robin sequence, it can cause an obstruction of breathing and difficulty eating,” Staffenberg, who does not treat Nina, tells TODAY.com.
Nina still has a long road ahead. She will require several more procedures, including one on her jaw, but she's expected to be discharged this summer, according to Marija.
Marija is counting down the days until her family is all under one roof. In meantime, she and her husband, Dan, know Nina is receiving the best care. As Dan wrote on Facebook, "There aren’t enough words to describe the doctors, nurses, and all staff at the hospital."
And they have faith in their little girl.
"At an early ultrasound we were told she wouldn’t survive," Marija tells TODAY.com "Nina is our little fighter. She was fighting before she was even born."