BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Everything changed for the Anderson family on July 24, 2016, the day their twins, Charlie and Sophia, were born. Unfortunately, this was not the happy, exciting day they had anticipated when the Anderson’s found out they were pregnant with twins.
Tori was only 26 weeks pregnant and went into premature labor. Two hours later the babies were delivered, weighing just two pounds each. Terrified does not begin to describe how the Anderson’s felt. They were fortunate to have delivered them at UAB, a world-class facility that they feel blessed to have right here in their backyard. The Anderson’s were quickly taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where an amazing team of doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists began caring for them. Their babies were small, but it did not take long to see how tough they were. Over the next 20 weeks, they experienced the roller coaster ride that every NICU parent knows all too well.
Baby Sophia required moderate support for her breathing and had to rely on oxygen off and on. This was her main issue; otherwise her NICU course was uncomplicated. The Anderson’s were so thankful for this, because she gave them the strength they needed to get through the many difficult days they had with Charlie. Her personality was big from the very beginning, and she provided us so much joy even during our darkest times.
Baby Charlie’s complications started when he was only five days old. He had a bowel perforation and was transferred to Children’s of Alabama. This was the first of many days the Anderson’s thought they might lose Charlie. As a pediatrician, who trained in those very NICUs, Tori could not believe that she was watching her son experience the complications she used to fear as a resident. Charlie had a drain placed in his abdomen and they held their breaths, unsure of what the coming days would bring. A few days later, Charlie got extremely sick and his body was severely swollen. An amazing team of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and respiratory therapists got him through this and miraculously over the next few weeks his bowels healed.
Just as Charlie’s bowels were healing, his lungs were getting worse. The Anderson’s prepared for surgery to remove part of his left lung and they did a lot of praying. It appeared that his life was hanging in the balance, and even the smallest amount of mucous in his breathing tube could tip him over the edge.
While the family was living day-to-day with Charlie, Sophia was growing and thriving. On October 15, Sophia was discharged home. What a joyous day for the Anderson’s! Sophia’s nurses and doctors gave her a wonderful sendoff, and in an odd way it was sad to say goodbye to them. They had done such an amazing job caring for the Anderson’s babies. Charlie was still ill during this time, and the family was living in a fog, going back and forth from home to the hospital.
Just two weeks later, they experienced what they believed to be a miracle. Charlie's lungs showed drastic improvement, and he did not require surgery. Over the next month and a half, he worked on feeding and growing, and he was discharged home on December 9. They could not have been happier to be all together as a family. Charlie stayed on full-time oxygen for six more months, then spent another six months using it at night. A little over a year after he came home from the hospital, Charlie was free of all tubes and monitors.
Today, the Anderson’s continue to be amazed daily by their two precious children. They are now two-years-old and have caught up to their peers. They have worked with a wonderful group of therapists through early intervention, have been cared for by numerous outstanding doctors, and have had the non-stop support of their family and friends. It truly does take a village.
The Anderson family is so incredibly thankful for all the advances in neonatal medicine that allowed them to bring their babies home. Many of these advances have been made possible by the March of Dimes. Life-saving medicines that the Anderson children received were developed directly from research grants through this organization. The March of Dimes also provides support programs for families living day-to-day in the NICU. The NICU is as stressful as life gets, and every word of encouragement, hug, and hot meal they provide is invaluable.
The Anderson’s know that there are many families in their same situation who have a different outcome from theirs. Therefore, they feel so strongly in supporting the March of Dimes. The family wants to continue to push the research that will help prevent premature birth and save the lives of babies in the NICU. They want every baby to have a chance to come home healthy.
The family also hopes that their story provides inspiration to other families going through similar circumstances. They know how difficult it is to keep faith and hope when you see the odds stacked against your tiny babies. But, the Anderson’s have learned that preemies are special, and they are capable of amazing things.
Story shared by Tori Anderson
To learn more about the March of Dimes, click here.
To register for March for Babies in Greater Birmingham, click here.