Colby and Connor Gerlach sitting outside on a stoop

In their words

Ashley and Matthew Gerlach 
Maquoketa, Iowa

Our experience at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital began when our twins, Colby and Connor, were born at 26 weeks and taken to the amazing neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). 

The babies and I were being monitored by high-risk obstetricians at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics when their umbilical cords began to tangle, requiring an emergency C-section. Prior to this monitoring and delivery, the twins began their journey with Twin to Twin Tranfusion Syndrome (TTTS), corrected by a laser ablation surgery and followed by Reverse Twin to Twin Tranfusion Syndrome and a second laser ablation surgery at another hospital. All the while, the health of our babies was followed closely by the doctors at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, information and knowledge that was invaluable in caring for them in the NICU. 

Immediately upon delivery, the NICU staff began rising to meet the needs of our little boys. Colby required a chest tube for a pneumothorax as well as intubation and all other “normal measures” required for a “26-weeker.” Connor was treated similarly for all “normal measures” but needed to be monitored very closely in the coming days, as he had developed severe pulmonary stenosis (restriction of blood flow in the pulmonary valve) due to the stress of TTTS. 

The pediatric cardiology team was wonderful in keeping us informed of his options and working with the neonatology team to coordinate his care. They limited fluid intake and met his nutritional needs with TPN (total parenteral nutrition) instead, knowing that his heart could not yet handle any extra work. They also used prostaglandin to keep his PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) open so there was an extra pathway for blood to flow to his underdeveloped lungs. The PDA is an artery that usually closes shortly after birth in most infants, as it’s no longer needed. 

As the weeks progressed and their treatment helped him to improve, his valve became less narrow, eventually requiring no surgery. At this point, the boys let the NICU staff take a quick breather and did some more “normal preemie things.” However, the break was short-lived as not long after, they both contracted a MRSA infection. Connor needed a chest tube, and Colby was in septic shock for approximately 12 hours. Treatment with multiple antibiotics began before they could even be sure what kind of infection it was and we were incredibly lucky that with these medicines among countless other measures, Colby began to show small improvements. 

The neonatologists instilled confidence and reassured us when we had doubt that Colby’s health could be restored. His blood cultures continued to come back positive, at which point the infectious disease doctors weighed in with different antibiotic treatment options. Slowly and steadily our little guy regained health and strength and was able to overcome to biggest bump in his journey. Other “small bumps” that our twins threw at their doctors and nurses included a bowel infection, urinary tract infection, supraventricular tachycardia (an irregular heartbeat), hypothyroidism, and inguinal hernias, among some other more “normal preemie” things. 

We cannot express how truly grateful we are to the staff at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, both in the NICU as well as those that continue to care for Colby and Connor in their specialty follow-up appointments. Without them we would not get to see these smiles every day. 

The people at UI Stead Family Children's Hospital are second to none. Our doctors and nurses did everything in their power to make sure we have happy and healthy little boys and helped us cope along the way. We are so very lucky to have such an amazing resource so close to home.

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