Rachel Fitzpatrick of Clarksburg was elated to learn she was carrying twins. She followed all of the guidelines for a healthy pregnancy with multiples, so she was surprised when she felt contractions after just 24 weeks. She arrived at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center and was put on bed rest to slow the progression of labor, but her baby girls had other plans.
Catherine and Julia arrived two weeks later, on July 3, 2015. Catherine weighed 2 pounds, and Julia weighed 1 pound, 14 ounces. The girls immediately took up residence in Shady Grove Medical Center’s premier Level IIIB neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where they would spend the next three months. At just 26 weeks’ gestation, the newborns were among the smallest of the NICU’s tiny patients.
“They had their fair share of ups and downs, but more ups than downs,” Fitzpatrick recalls. She took comfort in a conversation before her delivery with James Rost, MD, a neonatologist and medical director of the NICU.
“It was a really encouraging talk we had,” she says. Dr. Rost told her to focus on small pieces of time, or “to celebrate another 12 hours.” With every half-day, he promised, Fitzpatrick would find the motivation to do whatever the girls needed.
And she did find that strength, with the support of the NICU’s team of nurses, who are specially trained to care for premature babies like Catherine and Julia. After 90 days with her NICU family, Julia left Shady Grove Medical Center and headed home. Catherine followed two days later. By then, the twins weighed more than 5 pounds each and were thriving.
Both girls receive physical therapy twice a month, but Fitzpatrick says neither of the girls has shown any major developmental delays.
Now more than a year old, the twins continue to grow and thrive. Fitzpatrick and her husband, Robert, remain in close contact with their Shady Grove Medical Center nurses, whom Fitzpatrick says provided vital support.
“There were days that were really hard,” she says, especially when she had to leave the babies at the hospital. “But I knew they were in loving hands. I knew they would call if something was happening. Without them, I don’t think I’d have stayed sane though this whole process.”