When Patty Dilbarian saw her fragile, week-old twins cuddling together in an isolette for the first time, she wept.
"It was awesome," said the Boston-area mother. Her fraternal twins Brendan and Sara—who weighed 4 pounds, and 2 pounds 7 ounces respectively when they were born at 31 weeks—were relatively healthy. Sure, they spent the first month of their lives in a Boston neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Brendan had been on a ventilator for a brief period. But at no time after they were born, Dilbarian said, did she ever believe their lives were in serious danger.
So when the staff at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston asked her permission to put the two babies in the same incubator, Dilbarian said she hadn't given the idea much thought. While the benefits of "co-bedding" premature twins have been touted as a growing national trend, particularly for sick babies, when Dilbarian's kids were born in the spring of 1998 not everyone was doing it, especially for preemies like Brendan and Sara who were doing well in the NICU.
That's something 19-year NICU Nurse Gayle Kasparian is hoping to change.
Five years ago, Kasparian unwittingly became involved in a case that melted hearts nationwide when she suggested putting two premature twin girls in the same incubator. Brielle and Kyrie Jackson were born 12 weeks early at a hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts. Brielle weighed 2 pounds and was struggling with a battery of problems ranging from breathing issues and troubling blood-oxygen levels, to heart rate difficulties. Her sister, 2 pounds 3 ounces, was considered the stronger of the two.
When they were a little less than a month old, Brielle had a very difficult day, according to Kasparian. "She was frantic," the nurse recalled, saying that neither she nor the baby's parents could calm Brielle down as her condition worsened and she became increasingly stressed. "To me, all I can tell you is that this baby was trying to tell me something. I just wasn't getting it." So Kasparian thought she'd try a technique she'd heard only a little about: co-bedding premature twins. After the mother gave permission, Kasparian put the two babies together in one incubator, hoping it would do some good.
The rest, as they say, is history.