November 2, 2022 at 8:01 p.m.
Rademachers relish life after seven-month journey to bring twins home
Twins Amelia and Olivia Rademacher lay next to one another Oct. 27, dressed in identical pink outfits. Big sister Macey nudges her way between the identical twins as Mom Courtney watches, while Dad Gregg is on his way home to St. Martin from work.
This family has much to be thankful for. Energetic almost four-year-old Macey points to her sisters and her parents when asked what she is grateful for.
The twins were born March 24, at 24 weeks gestation, at The Mother Baby Center in Minneapolis. Amelia Arlene, named after her great-grandmother, born at 9:19 a.m., weighed 1 pound, 7 ounces and was 12 inches long. Olivia Marie was born at 9:20 a.m., weighing 1 pound, 4 ounces and 12 inches long. Currently, Amelia weighs 10.5 pounds and Olivia is 12.5 pounds.
Holding Amelia, Courtney said, “She is our smiley baby, but she’s crabby just as easy.”
“Olivia is the content baby, but you have to work for a smile,” said Gregg, holding Olivia.
Other than their blue eyes, a trait they share with the rest of the family, most things are different.
“They have different formula, different bottles, different sized clothes,” Courtney said.
“And one likes Mom, and one likes Dad, but they both like Macey,” Gregg said.
This young family’s journey of highs and lows is now on a high.
They dealt with heartbreak in January of 2021 when Courtney suffered a miscarriage. A tattoo she wears is a tribute to the baby their faith tells them they will meet some day.
Happier days were ahead when Courtney found out she was pregnant in November of 2021, and while shocked, they were excited when told they were having twin girls. Twins run on both sides of their families, including Gregg’s dad.
Gregg is the son of Joe and Lu Rademacher, of rural New Munich; and Courtney is the daughter of Craig and Ginny Schiffler, of Melrose.
Because she was having twins, Courtney was referred from CentraCare-Melrose Hospital to the St. Cloud Hospital and eventually to The Mother Baby Center in Minneapolis.
At 16 weeks, an ultrasound showed the babies had twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a rare pregnancy condition affecting identical twins or other multiples, that occurs when twins share one placenta and blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients essential for development in the womb. Sometimes the vessel connections within the placenta are not evenly dispensed and there is an imbalance in the blood exchange between the twins. One twin – the donor twin – gives away more blood than it receives in return and runs the risk of malnourishment and organ failure. The recipient twin receives too much blood and is susceptible to overwork of the heart and other cardiac complications.
Amelia was the recipient twin, and Olivia was the donor twin.
Laser fetal surgery was performed to separate the placenta blood vessels that run from one twin to the other.
“They zapped the blood vessels between the two girls so the vessels are cut off and they get their own nutrients,” Gregg said.
At the one-week follow-up Amelia was diagnosed as anemic. Because Courtney had a bleed in her fetal membranes lining the internal surface of her uterus, a blood transfusion for Amelia was not done because disrupting the membranes might have put her into labor, and she was already three centimeters dilated. She was put on bed rest in the hospital and scheduled to deliver the girls via a cesarean section March 17.
Medical professionals prepared them for what could happen with babies born so early.
“They said there’s no guarantees. You might lose one, you might lose both and here we are today with both of them home,” Gregg said.
On March 17 their baby girls were born, tiny, but with no complications. Gregg went with them to the neo-natal intensive care unit at Children’s Minnesota Hospital-Minneapolis where they were in con-joining rooms because of all the equipment needed for their care, including ventilators and feeding tubes.
“Your heart drops because you don’t know what to do,” he said about seeing them for the first time. “All I could do was touch them.”
A few hours later Courtney was wheeled to the NICU to see their baby girls.
Medical staff reassured them babies born younger than their girls survived. What made Gregg more comfortable was looking at a Wall of Hope with pictures of premature babies and stories and photos of their lives as they grew up.
“It calms a person, because you know this is possible,” he said.
Missing Macey, Gregg returned home, and Courtney stayed with their newborn daughters for three days. Courtney took the time she needed to heal once she returned home, knowing their twins were in good hands, each with their own nurse. Her favorite quote is one she found about NICU nurses: “I have your baby today, but it felt like I have your back today.”
“That’s how I felt when I met Amelia’s primary nurse,” Courtney said. “They (the nurses) reassured you. They know what they are doing, so part of me was OK leaving the girls.”
Technology allowed them to see their babies at home.
“They set up a camera (called Angel Eyes) in their rooms, and we could watch them whenever we wanted,” Courtney said. “Most nights Macey and I would lay on her bed and say goodnight to them.”
Gregg and Courtney made frequent trips to the hospital, thankful for the gifts of gas cards from family and friends.
They were overjoyed when the girls reached milestones, liking sucking, swallowing, breathing on their own and gaining weight.
“We were told to get to three pounds may seem like it will take forever, but once they hit the three-pound mark, they will cruise,” Gregg said.
Medical staff notified them if there were issues, including when Olivia developed an enlarged and dark stomach due to an infection.
“They prepared us, saying they didn’t know if she would make it, but the next morning she turned around,” Gregg said.
Olivia developed hydrocephalus, an abnormal buildup of fluid in her brain. A tube (shunt) was inserted surgically into a ventricle to drain excess fluid and will remain in place as she grows.
Amelia came home July 19, just a few weeks after their original July 7 due date, weighing 7 pounds, 4 ounces. Olivia’s arrival home Oct. 3, weighing 11 pounds, 15 ounces, was a special birthday gift for Gregg.
He smiles saying it was a shock with both babies home, but it was also wonderful having their family together.
“The structure of your day changes,” he said “It’s more about taking care of the kids now.”
Macey loves mothering them and smothering them with hugs and kisses.
The twin’s Oct. 9 baptism was a special day.
Olivia has occupational, physical and speech therapies. Both are on Vitamin D, and Olivia is on two medications. Olivia came home with a nasal cannula, which delivers supplemental oxygen to her, but they are hoping she will be weaned off of it soon. They have doctor’s appointments in November.
Throughout their journey they appreciate the help from medical staff and support from the community, and they are grateful for good medical insurance.
“We have million dollar babies,” Courtney said.
“A million dollars a piece,” adds Gregg, who doesn’t mind being outnumbered one male to five females, including dog Mya, but he said the next dog will be a male.
The Rademachers are thankful for – and relish – their healthy family of five.