Family Grateful to Be Home after 192 Days in the NICU

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Starting a family wasn’t an easy journey for Josh and Jessica Ellinger of Huntington, MA.  Today they hug their twins, Charlotte and Evelyn, a little extra after the scary road it took to get there. 

Josh and Jessica tried for a while to get pregnant. With no results, they visited Baystate Reproductive Medicine where they met with Dr. Cynthia Sites. She recommended they try in vitro fertilization (IVF), a fertility treatment that can make it possible for infertile couples to conceive.  After a few rounds, they got the exciting news they were hoping for. They were pregnant—with twins.

From there, every two weeks Jessica received an ultrasound at Baystate’s Wesson Women’s Clinic. Early into her pregnancy an ultrasound showed that Jessica had a shortened cervix.  When the cervix (the base of the uterus) is short during pregnancy, the risk of premature labor goes up.At 23 weeks, Jessica was four centimeters dilated and was admitted to Baystate Medical Center for monitoring. One week later, she had an emergency cesarean birth (c-section).

Ellinger Family 4Delivering Preemie Twins 

Evelyn was delivered first, and weighed 1lb 7 ounces. She was born “en caul,” meaning she was born in her amniotic sac. Three minutes later, her sister Charlotte was born at 1lb 6 ounces.  Both were immediately rushed to the Davis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Baystate Children’s Hospital.   “Evelyn was a miracle baby. She had no issues, didn’t need to be intubated, cruised through her milestones, and was very advanced for being born at 24 weeks” said Josh.  “Charlotte however needed to be intubated multiple times and she had more complications,” he said.

Emergency Surgery and Lifesaving Technology

Charlotte’s intestines became swollen due to NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis). They were pushing against her lungs making it difficult to breathe. After her doctors tried everything they could, she went in for an emergency surgery. Her intestines were placed in a pouch called a silo. This allowed for the lungs to open up. That then prepared her for her second surgery on her bowel. Dr. Michael Tirabassi, pediatric surgeon, used a new florescent light technology called SPY,  manufactured by Stryker. The florescence allowed for Dr. Tirabassi to see the bowel more clearly.

He was able to save much more of Charlotte’s intestines, resectioning all but 36 cm patched together from 6 pieces. It took about two months of healing until her intestines were reconnected. “Ten days later she made a bowel movement. In the NICU you celebrate poops and you celebrate weight,” said Josh. The next part of the process for Charlotte was testing how much food she could handle. “Her stomach didn’t get the chance to expand. Even today at home we only can give her so much. We were trained to give her TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition) at home. The NICU nurses helped us learn the tools to care for our daughter,” said Josh.

Headed Home as Family 

192 days later, Charlotte was finally able to go home.“The whole event was harrowing and scary but the whole time we knew we were in good hands. When we left the hospital, we could sleep well at night knowing where they were,” said Josh. “I can’t say enough about the care we received, particularly our nurses.  They were our biggest advocates when we weren’t there. They would fight for anything our daughters needed. When we were there, they took care of us just as much as our girls. They gave us pep talks to let us know everything would be okay. We always knew next steps. They explained everything to us,” said Josh.

Advice to NICU Parents

When asked to share advice for new NICU parents, Josh and Jessica said, “It does get better. There are plenty of times where you think you will never get out of the rut. It is very exhausting mentally and physically. Take the “you time” when it is presented to you. When someone offers you a break take it or you will burn out. But I promise you, it does get better.”

Today they are home as a family of four. “It feels really good to be home as a family and we have Baystate to thank for that.”

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