Two Tiny Miralces, Born Seven Months Apart

With the help of doctors at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Valentina gave birth to two baby girls seven months apart. The family’s extraordinary journey was nothing short of a miracle.

Two years ago, newlyweds Valentina and Anthony Holguin were excited when they learned that Valentina was expecting a little girl. In just a few short months, it seemed like everything they had ever wished for was coming true.

But after a smooth and uneventful pregnancy, Valentina began experiencing extreme pain at the beginning of her third trimester.

“All of a sudden, I had these awful symptoms,” Valentina recalled. “My ribs felt like they were going to break and I had difficulty breathing. I was in so much pain.”

Valentina brought her concerns to her OB-GYN, but she was told that what she was experiencing was normal, especially toward the end of a pregnancy. Valentina decided to push through the pain and do her best to enjoy the time she had left before her daughter was born. At 32 weeks pregnant, she and her husband planned a trip over Memorial Day Weekend to attend her little sister’s high school graduation.

“We drove five and a half hours to get there and we had to stop every hour because I was in such excruciating pain,” Valentina said. “I didn’t know it at the time, but I was experiencing labor pains.”

The morning after they arrived, Valentina proudly watched as her little sister walked across the stage to accept her diploma. She bent down to take a picture to commemorate the moment, and just then, her water broke.

“I didn’t know what happened at first because it wasn’t a huge gush, but I could tell something was off,” Valentina said. “I went into the bathroom and saw that I had some bleeding, so I called my OB-GYN and they told me to go straight to the ER.”

There, the doctors confirmed that Valentina was in labor. Because she was only 32 weeks along, however, they did everything they could to stop her from delivering that day.

“They wanted me to hold out as long as possible to give my baby more time to grow,” Valentina said. “They admitted me to the hospital and I spent the weekend there on bedrest.”

That following Tuesday, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist took Valentina for an ultrasound to check on the baby’s progress.

“I remember that the specialist was concerned because I was so swollen,” Valentina said. “I had so much amniotic fluid in my womb that the specialist said it must have felt like I was carrying twins.”

After the ultrasound, the specialist sat down with Valentina and told her some devastating news. Her baby girl had a condition called hydrops fetalis, also known as hydrops, which is characterized by a large amount of fluid build-up in the tissues and organs. The condition causes swelling and has a poor prognosis, with less than 50 percent of unborn babies surviving birth. In Valentina’s case, her baby’s lungs were filled with fluid.

“She was very straightforward with us and prepared us for the worst, saying that there was a very real chance that our baby may not make it,” Valentina said. “I tried to remain as positive as possible and my husband and I just hoped and prayed she would make it. I knew that my daughter needed me to be strong, and so I was only going to emit positive energy to her.”

The specialist told Valentina that she would need to be transferred to a hospital with a Level IV NICU before delivery, since her daughter would need specialized surgery immediately after birth. With the clock ticking, Valentina was airlifted to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA).

The day after she arrived, Valentina went into active labor, and she was placed under the care of OB-GYN Dr. Jacqueline Battistelli, MD.

“Dr. Battistelli was an angel sent from heaven above,” Valentina said. “She really helped guide me through the process of labor.”

Before the delivery, Valentina was also paid a visit by neonatologist Dr. Sowmya Mohan, MD.

“Dr. Mohan gave me such reassurance. She told me her name, introduced me to her team, and told me that they were going to take care of me and my baby,” Valentina said. “She also explained how, after the delivery, they were going to try to let me see her for a moment, if possible, but that they would then have to take her into surgery immediately and put a shunt in her lungs to release the fluid. She gave me such clarity as to what was going to happen, which I really appreciated.”

Neonatologist Dr. Sowmya Mohan helped Valentina understand exactly what to expect when her baby was delivered at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Battistelli delivered a baby girl, whom Valentina and her husband named Elena Diana.

“It was a beautiful delivery,” Valentina said. “We played worship music and after just an hour of pushing, my beautiful daughter was born.”

Valentina was able to see Elena for just a few seconds before she was rushed into surgery. About an hour after the delivery, Dr. Mohan walked into the room and told Valentina that her little girl was OK.

“They were able to put the shunt in and drain the fluid, and she told us that Elena was in the NICU and ready for us to see her,” Valentina said.

Valentina and Anthony were relieved beyond belief. Elena stayed in the NICU for 47 days until she went home with her parents. During that time, Valentina and her husband stayed in the hospital at the Ronald McDonald House, located just one floor above the NICU.

“I hardly left her bedside,” Valentina said. “I couldn’t hold her for the first 12 days of her life because of all the tubing and how fragile she was, but I made sure to give her all the love she needed.”

Baby Elena was finally in her mother Valentina’s arms. The baby girl needed surgery immediately following her birth to have a shunt placed in her lungs.

Although the experience was difficult and at times exhausting, Valentina said she was so grateful for everyone at The Children’s Hospital who supported her and took care of her daughter.

“Every single morning our resident, Dr. Shawnee Wallace, would come by Elena’s room and answer all of my questions,” Valentina said. “I am so grateful for doctors like her that listened to all of my concerns and allowed me to advocate for my daughter. We had such an amazing experience with everyone, and I felt like I was just surrounded by such good people.”

During Elena’s NICU stay, Valentina was especially impressed with first year resident Dr. Shawnee Wallace who eased her concerns by thoroughly answering all her questions.

Valentina and Anthony were thrilled to finally bring their daughter home. But then, something unexpected happened.

“A month later, I found out I was pregnant again,” Valentina said. “We were shocked but also so excited. And we thought everything was going to be so different this time. What happened with Elena was so rare.”

For a while, Valentina’s pregnancy progressed as expected. She was monitored closely by a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist because of her previous experience, and so far, there were no signs of any complications. But then, at just 25 weeks, Valentina went into labor.

“I started work that morning at 8:00 a.m., and then by 9:08 a.m., I was on the floor with insane contractions—I thought it was Braxton Hicks,” Valentina said. “I was working from home so I got into the bathtub and filled it with some warm water just trying to soothe myself, but I was in miserable pain. Then I went to the bathroom and that’s when I could feel my amniotic sac.”

Valentina was fully dilated.

“I called my husband to come home and he rushed me to the nearest hospital, we didn’t have time to go anywhere else,” Valentina said.

Because her baby was breech, doctors performed an emergency C-section within an hour of her arrival at the hospital, and her second baby girl, due April 27, was born on January 13, 2022.

“She was so tiny, a micro-preemie, weighing just 1 pound, 13 ounces,” Valentina said.

Her daughter, Lucia Valentina, would need the highest level of NICU care, so Valentina asked for her to be transferred to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

“It was so scary because of how tiny she was,” Valentina said. “At that point, I had already lived a NICU experience and I had made friends with other parents who had shared their experiences with me, both the good and also the really tragic and sad. So, this time it just felt more real.”

At CHofSA, Valentina learned that her daughter had a grade three bilateral brain bleed, as well as a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) which is an opening between the two major blood vessels leading from the heart. Lucia was monitored closely by her primary doctor, Dr. Maria Pierce, a board-certified Perinatal-Neonatal Medicine physician at CHofSA. Both conditions, common among babies born as early as Lucia, were monitored closely and, thankfully, resolved with time.

Valentina wanted to make sure her daughter Lucia had the same level of care that Elena had. Again, she turned to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. This time Dr. Maria Pierce, Medical Director of the NICU, provided outstanding care to Lucia for more than 100 days.

“The doctors were so communicative with me and always let me know what was going on with her every single day,” Valentina said. “Dr. Mohan, who we had grown close to on our first NICU stay, never failed to come by and ask how we were doing, as well as answer any questions we had. She had a special way of explaining everything to us.”

The Holguins found themselves back in the NICU at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio with their second daughter Lucia who was born prematurely. They returned only a few months after Elena was discharged from the NICU. The baby girls were born just seven months apart.

Lucia stayed in the NICU for 101 days. “This time was harder because I couldn’t live with her in the hospital since we had another baby at home,” Valentina said. “But it was comforting to know that she was in good hands with her nurses. It was a whole process learning to let go and trust others to look after her, but I know the staff there loved her so much. She had a couple of nurses that I got to know well during our NICU stay, and when Lucia was in their care, I could sleep peacefully at night. Amy Parker, Jesse Battleson, Dayzee Treiber, Coral Nolan and Kristin Joyner are some of those amazing nurses that I was confident would look after her with such genuine love and care.”

Despite two high-risk pregnancies, the Holguins welcomed two baby girls into their family during a short span of seven months. Here the couple is shown with daughters Lucia and Elena.

Today, both girls are home, surrounded by their loving parents and doting extended family. Although Lucia still has some hurdles in her growth and development—she is being treated for retinopathy of prematurity, an eye abnormality common in premature infants—she is making strides with a bright future ahead.

“We are just so in love with these amazing little babies,” Valentina said. “I still can’t believe I have two little miracles, and I am eternally grateful to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and its outstanding staff for taking care of my girls so well.”

To learn more about the Level IV NICU at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, visit

Our little fighter

Christina wanted to give her husband, Sergio, a child of his own. A mother to three children from a previous marriage, Christina had her fallopian tubes tied, so the couple would need to go through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to have a child.

After discussing it as a couple, they decided it was their best chance to give Sergio the baby he always wanted.

“IVF is hard. It was a beautiful journey, but it was tough. My hormones and emotions were all over the place. I experienced a lot of morning sickness – more than I experienced with my three other children,” said Christina.

Despite the uncomfortable pregnancy, Christina was excited when she learned she was having a girl and decided they would call her Hannah.

Hannah’s expected due date was Dec. 23, 2021. Christina thought she and her family would have time to plan for their new addition, but Hannah had other plans.

On Sept. 26, 2021, Christina had severe contractions, and her blood pressure skyrocketed. She was scared and overwhelmed – not only for herself, but for Hannah. The next thing she knew, Christina was being prepped for a C-section.

Thankfully, Christina had already chosen to give birth at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, so Hannah would have access to a Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Weighing a little over two pounds at birth, baby Hannah made her entrance into the world.

“Immediately after she was born, she had a ton of problems. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another,” said Christina. “She had to be put on three or four breathing machines because her lungs were super premature.”

Hannah also was born with a heart defect known as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). An opening between two blood vessels leading from the heart, small PDAs usually cause no symptoms, but larger PDAs, like the one Hannah had, can cause the heart and lungs to work harder and cause permanent damage to the blood vessels in the lungs. 

Hannah also had protectors over her eyes because they weren’t ready to be opened yet. Seeing her baby in this state was heartbreaking for Christina, and she wanted nothing more than to hold her.

“I developed a bad case of postpartum depression. It was so hard to see Hannah like that and not be able to hold her close,” said Christina.

A few days after she was born, Hannah had surgery to close the PDA and did exceptionally well.

Dr. Daniel Nento did an amazing job, and we were incredibly grateful to everyone on the surgery team who took such good care of her,” said Christina. “We were in awe of the surgical team who repaired Hannah’s PDA and for their ability to operate on such a tiny baby.”

Dr. Daniel Nento, a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon with the Heart Center, performed surgery on Hannah’s heart when we was just a few days old.

Aside from the surgery to repair her PDA, Hannah did not require any further surgeries after she was born – quite remarkable for a tiny baby.  

“Hannah developed a reputation for being tough and feisty like her mom,” said Christina. “It’s always the tough ones who make it.”  

Hannah was not entirely out of the woods yet. She developed some serious lung and kidney infections and some other challenges, but not once did Christina give up on her daughter. Hannah was a living, breathing miracle and her family was so grateful she was alive.

In total, Hannah was in the NICU for four months and finally went home Jan. 3. Since she spent the holidays in the hospital, nurses dressed her up in outfits, including a bee costume for Halloween.

“What the nurses do for the NICU babies is incredible, and we were so grateful we were at Children’s. They are so well-equipped to handle premature babies and knew exactly what to do. I would highly recommend them to anyone, and if I have another baby myself, that’s where I’m going,” said Christina.

Christina and her family are incredibly thankful for Dr. Cheryl Motta for thoroughly explaining what was happening and why. Christina also remembers a kind and compassionate nurse named Renee, who helped her hold Hannah for the first time.

Hannah’s family was grateful for the way Dr. Cheryl Motta, a neonatologist, helped them understand more about Hannah’s condition and the plans for treatment.

“She was amazing, and I will always remember her for helping me create that moment with my daughter,” said Christina.

Since she’s been home, Hannah has been doing well. Initially, she couldn’t keep her food down, and Christina grew concerned that they might have to return to the hospital. In addition to all her other issues at birth, Hannah had paralysis of her left vocal cord, which made it challenging for her to eat and cry. Her older siblings love having her at home and are a big help to Christina.

“For so many months, my other children only saw photos of Hannah, so they are happy to have her around,” said Christina.

Hannah developed a reputation for being a feisty little fighter while she spent four months in the NICU at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

Christina is unsure what the future holds for Hannah and takes things one day at a time. Given everything her daughter’s been through, she’s made remarkable progress and is a blessing for Christina’s family. Her biggest hope for Hannah is for her someday to aspire to become a doctor or a nurse in the NICU and help tiny babies like herself survive and thrive.

“Hannah may be small, but one thing is for sure, and that is that she’s a fighter. I will never underestimate her strength,” said Christina.  

Click on the links to learn more about Heart Care and the NICU at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

A Story of Faith, Hope and Survival

Last August, Cynthia and Isaac Torres from Eagle Pass, Texas, were excited when they found out they were expecting another baby. The couple has a 13-year-old son, but they always wanted to have more children. After several miscarriages, they were unsure if another baby was possible. As they clung to their faith, God doubled their blessings in ways they never imagined.

“Early in my pregnancy, my ultrasounds showed I was carrying one baby,” said Cynthia. “When I was 13 weeks pregnant, I had another ultrasound, and I will never forget that day. Just like any other prenatal appointment, I went in for an anatomy scan to see how my baby was developing and I remember the technician telling me, ‘I see two babies. You are pregnant with twins.’ My immediate reaction was, ‘Are you serious?’ When she turned the monitor towards me, sure enough, I saw two tiny hearts beating in unison. My husband and I were beyond excited.”

Cynthia began seeing two OB-GYN specialists – Dr. Carlos Hernandez in Eagle Pass and Dr. James Hill, her high-risk maternal fetal medicine physician at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Since Cynthia was pregnant with twins and she had a previous history of miscarriages, she and her babies were monitored closely. Cynthia had to take daily injections of Enoxaparin, a blood-thinning medication to prevent recurrent miscarriages. She gave herself these injections throughout her entire pregnancy. During her first and second trimesters, her pregnancy was going smoothly, and the babies were developing normally.

When Cynthia was 31-weeks pregnant, she went on a family vacation to Mazatlan, Mexico, with her husband, their 13-year-old son, and her mother in December 2021. They enjoyed the beach and wanted to have one last family vacation before the babies were due on March 1, 2022. After spending nearly a week in Mexico, the unexpected happened on the last day of their vacation.

“My family was packing our luggage since we were heading home the next day,” said Cynthia. “I was laying on the couch in our hotel room, and I remember screaming. My mom asked me what was wrong. I told her I didn’t know. I just got this bad pain. And when I got up, my water broke. Since I was considered high risk, I went to the hospital which was a short drive from our hotel. I was hoping that I could still make it back home the next day, but that wasn’t the case. When I arrived in the ER at Mazatlan, I had an ultrasound to see if my babies were OK. Then, the gynecologist who examined me performed another ultrasound. He told me there was not enough amniotic fluid in the sac, and it was dangerous for the babies to remain in my womb.”

On January 2, 2022, Cynthia and Isaac welcomed their fraternal twins – Isaac and Israel – who were delivered via emergency cesarean section in Mexico. They were born at 31 weeks and weighed just three pounds each. Isaac was born first, and was smaller than his younger brother, Israel. Soon after their births, Isaac and Israel were sent to the neonatal intensive care unit where they were monitored.

“It was a big sigh of relief when I heard my babies cry for the first time,” said Cynthia. “As much as I wanted to hold them closely, I couldn’t because I tested positive for COVID-19. This was my second time having COVID, but in both cases, I had mild symptoms. I was quarantined at the hospital and nobody in my family could see me. I remember crying and feeling so alone. I had my cell phone with me so my husband could text me pictures of Israel and Isaac in the NICU.”

Since the twins were born premature, Israel and Isaac were having trouble breathing. They were both hooked up to oxygen, but Israel’s lung condition seemed to be getting worse. The NICU doctors in Mazatlan told the Torres’ that it would be best for Israel and Isaac to be transferred to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio since they have a Level IV NICU that provides the highest level of care for premature and critically ill newborns. Once the babies arrived, they would be placed under the care of Dr. Maria Pierce, a perinatal-neonatal medicine physician and medical director of the hospital’s NICU.

A transport team loads the Torres twins onto an airplane in Mazatlan, Mexico, to bring the twins to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio’s Level IV NICU.

“Dr. Pierce was an angel sent from above,” said Cynthia. “My husband called her from Mexico, and she told us there was space for our boys in the NICU. As nervous as we were, my husband got the paperwork completed for the air transport of our twins. He accompanied our sons on the two-hour airplane ride to San Antonio. They arrived at Children’s Hospital on January 5 at 2:00 a.m. Dr. Pierce and the rest of the team were already waiting for Israel and Isaac to get to the NICU.”

When the babies arrived at Children’s, they both needed oxygen. Israel, the weaker twin,went into cardiac arrest as they arrived to the NICU. The NICU team performed CPR on Israel, and they were able to resuscitate him within minutes. Both babies were stable, but they were not out of the woods. Dr. Pierce and the NICU nurses monitored them closely and updated the family on their progress.

Isaac Torres flew with the twins to San Antonio and stayed with them during their first two weeks in the NICU while his wife recovered from COVID.

“Dr. Pierce called me in Mexico to let me know how my twins were doing,” said Cynthia. “I spent two nights in the hospital in Mexico before I could go back to Texas. My son, mom and I made the 12-hour drive to Eagle Pass. It was a long ride for me as I was still recovering from my C-section. Since I had COVID and had to be quarantined at home, my husband stayed with our twins for the first 10 days in the NICU. When I finally held Isaac and Israel for the first time, I cried. It was a beautiful thing to be reunited with my sons. It was the best feeling in the world.”

Cynthia cried tears of joy when she was finally able to hold her babies for the first time since they were born.

While in the NICU, Israel and Isaac were monitored and tested daily. They underwent many different screening tests including MRIs on their brains and lungs to make sure everything was functioning normally. Although they had low iron levels, which is not uncommon in premature babies, they were given vitamins twice a day. While they had feeding tubes, they were receiving bottle feeds as well, and they gained weight in the NICU. Isaac and Israel were getting stronger day by day and were able to breathe on their own. Once they were completely stable, they were ready to go home on February 12, 2022, after spending a month and a half in the NICU.

Isaac and Israel spent six weeks in the NICU at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Their parents are happy to be back home in Eagle Pass now where the twins are thriving and mom enjoys dressing them up in matching outfits!

“Our 2-month-old sons are doing amazingly well,” said Cynthia. “Their little personalities are beginning to show. While Isaac loves to command attention – he thinks he’s the center of the world – his younger brother Israel loves to be held all the time. He is more patient than his older brother. As I look at our sons today, I can’t help but think about their journey of survival, and the amazing doctors and nurses in the NICU who took great care of them. Dr. Pierce and the NICU nurses were amazing. They answered all of our questions and concerns, and they were always there to comfort and support us especially during those unstable moments when I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. There were a lot of ups and downs on our journey, but our family and faith kept us strong. I’d go to the chapel at the hospital and pray for our boys every day. I can’t wait to tell my boys the story about their birth when they get older. It was a wild ride – but in the end, I am grateful God blessed us with these two miracle babies that we love so much.”

The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio provides the highest level of specialized care for premature and critically ill infants. Click here to learn more about our Level IV NICU.

An Answered Prayer

While recovering from COVID, Gabriella had a nightmare in which she experienced a miscarriage. The next day, she consulted her doctor who determined she needed to deliver the baby by emergency C-section.

Gabriella and Andrew Silva were over the moon to learn they were pregnant with their first child. They had been married for about three years and had watched their close friends have babies. Even though they were not trying to get pregnant, the timing was perfect to start a family.  

“I still remember telling Andrew that he was going to be a dad. I had just taken the test and I told him when he woke up. He was really excited. It was a special moment,” said Gabriella.

Gabriella’s pregnancy was uneventful. She had always been healthy, watched what she ate, took her vitamins, and got plenty of exercise. Her only complaint was how tired she was that first trimester.

Her second trimester was pretty much the same. Even though she had no issues, she switched her birthing plan from using a midwife to an obstetrician. Aside from occasional heartburn, Gabriella was sailing right along with pregnancy until she was 33 weeks along.

That’s when she was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“I’m healthy, and I’m young. I was 26 at the time and didn’t think much of it,” said Gabriella. “I had the sniffles and thought it was allergies.”

Bbout the seventh or eighth day into her COVID diagnosis, Gabriella was not feeling well at all and developed a high fever. She was extremely lethargic and could barely find the strength to get up and get herself a glass of water and found it challenging to eat anything. 

Still, Gabriella was not too concerned. She consulted with her sister, a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist, about what she should do and how she should take care of herself. At this point, she had not told her obstetrician she had COVID.

One night, as Gabriella recovered, she went to bed and had a horrible dream that she lost her baby – a little boy she had already named Daniel. She thought the dream might be a sign something was wrong and called her obstetrician right away. Luckily, she had reached her last day of quarantine and was no longer symptomatic.

Upon arrival, Gabriella explained to the nurse that it had been about 18 hours since she could feel Daniel’s presence, and they became concerned. While they could detect a heartbeat, Daniel’s heart rhythms were off, and he scored a two out of 10 on his ultrasound test. Something was wrong, and Gabriella needed a C-section right away so Daniel could survive.

“At that point, I had a total meltdown. I had all these expectations for a beautiful birth. I wanted to be unmedicated. Now, not only did I have to have a C-section, but I had a sick, premature baby. It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” said Gabriella.

The next thing she knew, Gabriella was getting prepped for a C-section. After they took Daniel out, she got to see him for a brief minute, and then the care team rushed him to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where he had to be intubated. His oxygen levels and blood pressure had dropped. Daniel was in critical condition.

Meanwhile, Gabriella hemorrhaged twice and had to have a blood transfusion. Thankfully, she did not have to have a hysterectomy. It was not until several hours after he was born that Gabriella was able to meet her son.

“The first time I saw him was very difficult. They weren’t sure if he had COVID and were taking all the necessary precautions. He was this tiny baby connected to all sorts of machines, and there were lots of nurses around him,” said Gabriella. “At that moment, I just started praying over him, praying that he would come out of this and survive.”

The first time Gabriela saw her newborn son Daniel, he was connected to machines that were helping him breathe. At that moment, she knew she had to ask everyone she knew to pray for him.

She extended the invitation to pray over Daniel to all of their family members and friends – everyone they had ever known.

“For the first time throughout this ordeal, I had a moment of peace. I knew deep down everything was going to be OK. It never crossed my mind that we might lose Daniel. That was the grace of God,” said Gabriella.

A day or so later, the doctor in charge of the NICU came into Gabriella’s room, where she was still recovering from her C-section. She came to inform Gabriella that Daniel may need to receive a process called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation  or ECMO as a precaution. ECMO is used in critical care situations, when the heart and lungs need help so they can heal. This method allows the blood to “bypass” the heart and lungs, allowing these organs to rest and heal. Because that particular hospital did not have access to one, he would need to be transported to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA).

The transport team at CHofSA arrived and spent three hours meticulously preparing Daniel for the trip to CHofSA.

When Daniel arrived, he was immediately put under the care of Dr. Cheryl Motta and Sarah, one of his nurses. Dr. Maria Pierce was also on the team, a family friend of Gabriella’s, and told her and Andrew that she would take care of their baby as if he were her own grandson. 

Still thinking there might be a chance Daniel had COVID-19, they isolated him from the rest of the babies, putting him in a less intensive area of the NICU, something Gabriella felt was significant. Fortunately, Daniel did not need ECMO after all, but he was still struggling. One lung would collapse, followed by the other, which impacted his heart and blood pressure. From Gabriella’s perspective, Daniel was getting worse and not better.

“I believe CHofSA has a special place in the heart of God, taking care of the most innocent and vulnerable in our community,” Gabriella said. “The prayers of the nuns who started the infirmary in the late 1800s are still being answered today.”

So, Gabriella and Andrew asked again for prayer from family and friends. At one point, they had about 2,000 people praying for their baby boy. Sarah, the same nurse who took care of Daniel when he was admitted, gave Gabriella a little voice recorder. Gabriella used it to record worship songs for Daniel. One of the other nurses, Amber, played the recordings for Daniel that same night.

The next day when Gabriella and Andrew arrived, something miraculous had happened: Daniel was better.

“No one could explain why, but Daniel was getting stronger. One by one, they were able to disconnect the machines. All the staff was shocked at his quick progress. We truly believe it was the power of prayer,” said Gabriella.

Gabriella remembers the day that Daniel was extubated. It was the first time since he was born she could hear Daniel cry, and from there, he just continued to get better. He was in the NICU for a total of five weeks.

To this day, his doctors are not 100% sure what happened. There is a possibility that he developed COVID-19 in the womb, which would explain why Daniel had so many issues with his heart and lungs when he was born. But they can’t make that diagnosis with certainty.

Today, Daniel is home and hitting many of his newborn milestones. He has had no developmental delays. Daniel is 100% breastfed, and in the 99th percentile for his gestational age. 

“The staff at CHofSA as well as our family and friends were the hands and feet of Jesus to us during our time in the NICU. From Dr. Rosen, my obstetrician, who delivered him to all the janitors in the NICU, they all get credit for the incredible life Daniel will have the opportunity to live. Once, when I was driving home from CHofSA, I felt so strongly God’s love for the place that I wept. I believe CHofSA has a special place in the heart of God, taking care of the most innocent and vulnerable in our community – our children. The prayers of the nuns who started the infirmary in the late 1800s are still being answered today,” said Gabriella. 

After five weeks in the CHofSA NICU, Gabriella is happy to have Daniel home where he continues to grow and meet many of his newborn milestones right on schedule.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio takes care of the sickest and most vulnerable babies in our community and from all over Texas. Learn more about the Level IV NICU by visiting our website:

Forever Grateful

Kaylee experienced several challenges during her pregnancy. After Dax was born she was grateful for the care he received in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

Kaylee Tovar’s pregnancy was anything but ordinary. About a week after she learned she was pregnant, she experienced some cramping and then significant bleeding. She thought she was having a miscarriage. She later learned that she had what is known as a subchorionic hematoma or bleeding under one of the membranes that surrounds the embryo inside the uterus. She continued to spot on and off for the next few weeks and then started having symptoms of what she thought was morning sickness at around three months into the pregnancy. But she was in for another surprise.

“It turns out I was positive for COVID-19. I was feverish, lost my sense of taste and smell, and just felt really tired,” said Kaylee. “But thankfully, my symptoms were mild.”

After recovering from COVID-19, Kaylee continued with her prenatal screenings. It was during one of these prenatal checkups that doctors discovered Kaylee’s baby had Down syndrome. Kaylee took the news in stride and felt like it was something she could handle until she started Googling and learning about all the different birth defects associated with Down syndrome.

“I was pretty depressed during the pregnancy just because of everything that was going on. I was really worried about him,” said Kaylee.

When she was about 16 weeks along, Kaylee had a sonogram to detect other birth defects. Much to Kaylee’s relief, they could not see any heart defects or anything else out of the ordinary – only features that indicated Down syndrome.

Kaylee tried to stay hopeful and positive after learning Dax had Down syndrome.

Her doctors scheduled a C-section for 38 weeks, but her baby, who she would name Dax, had other plans.

When she was about 36 weeks along, Kaylee started having contractions. She thought they were Braxton-Hicks contractions and was not too concerned. But Kaylee was uncomfortable and couldn’t even sit up in a chair or get a good night’s rest. She went to see her obstetrician, who told her that her cervix was only dilated one centimeter and sent her home. Later that night, the contractions got more intense. She found herself back in the hospital and was five centimeters dilated.

Kaylee had a C-section when she was 36 weeks and five days into her pregnancy. Initially, Baby Dax was doing well but needed some oxygen, so the doctors admitted him to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

“I thought everything was OK. We went back and forth to the NICU a couple of times, and we were able to hold Dax,” said Kaylee.

Then, things changed – quickly. The medical team informed Kaylee that Dax would need a blood transfusion because his white blood cell count was extremely high which meant he was trying to fight off some sort of infection. Kaylee thought this was only a minor setback and that Dax would get through it without issue.

Less than an hour later, though, Dax was coughing up blood, and the doctors didn’t know why. The doctors had to act fast and decided to transfer Dax to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA). Kaylee and her husband remained by Dax’s bedside until it was time for him to be transferred.

“I was hysterical. It was already bad enough Dax wasn’t at my bedside. Now, he was going to be in another hospital, and I wouldn’t be able to see him because I was still recovering from my C-section,” said Kaylee.

As the CHofSA team transported Dax, Kaylee returned to her room and tried to rest. Within hours, she received a phone call and learned that Dax would need another blood transfusion and would need to have emergency surgery because there was a tear in his stomach, the source of the blood he was coughing up earlier.

All sorts of things went through Kaylee’s mind. Was the tear in his stomach something to do with Down syndrome? Was it something that wasn’t detected during her pregnancy that should have been? Was the reason for the high white blood cell count leukemia?

Dax underwent his surgery and did remarkably well. He was having some issues with his lungs – something Kaylee expected. He was put on a respirator to assist with his breathing.

The next day Kaylee was discharged from the hospital where she had her C-section and was reunited with her son at CHofSA.

“They weren’t sure what may have caused the tear in his stomach. It could have been a variety of things, but the good news was that he did well. It was definitely a lot to take in. I’d never had a NICU baby before,” said Kaylee.

Dax was transferred to the NICU at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio where he could receive the most comprehensive newborn care available in our region.

But through the whole ordeal, the team at CHofSA kept Kaylee informed, so she knew exactly what was going on. Kaylee still was very nervous throughout his recovery and remembers him needing another platelet transfusion a little later.

“I’d really like to thank the entire team for taking care of him. The nurses, the therapists, and the doctors, especially Dr. (Michael) Megison, and Dr. (Lindsay) DeVries, Dr. (Pratik) Parikh, Dr. (Katherine) Bratton, Dr. (Adam) Wolfe, and Dr. (Maria) Pierce, took care of Dax as if he was their own,” said Kaylee. “I could tell they all cared about Dax and took care of him when I felt helpless.”

Kaylee also extends her appreciation to the Ronald McDonald House located inside The Children’s Hospital, which served as a home away from home when Dax was in the NICU. Kaylee was able to get some rest while remaining close by.

Dax spent 34 days in the NICU and is now at home with his older brother where he is doing well. He sees his pediatrician frequently – and tells Kaylee that Dax is doing great.

“We just take it one day at a time and are forever grateful to the team at CHofSA,” said Kaylee.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio provides comprehensive care for the area’s most vulnerable babies. Learn more about this amazing multidisciplinary team by visiting our website.  

At the Right Place, At the Right Time

Kaitlyn and Stewart Skloss felt blessed knowing their newborn daughter was in the capable hands of an outstanding medical team at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. As their family grows, they plan to make CHofSA part of their birth plan.

Kaitlyn and Stewart Skloss from Fredericksburg were excited about the prospect of giving their only child, Ella, a younger sibling. After all, they always wanted a house full of kids and are hoping for as many as five, so learning Kaitlyn was pregnant was welcome news.

Things for the couple were progressing well. Kaitlyn was active, healthy, and felt great. She was enjoying extra quality time with Ella, and both were looking forward to the arrival of a new bundle of joy in late August.

When she was 28 weeks along, Kaitlyn had an anatomy scan, and that’s when it was detected that Mae was a little small – she was experiencing what doctors refer to as “restrictive fetal growth.” At this moment, Kaitlyn’s obstetrician, Dr. Sharrel Carlton of Peterson Women’s Associates, brought her under the care of maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. James Hill at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA).

Kaitlyn was referred to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at CHofSA when her baby was smaller than expected at her 28-week prenatal care visit.

Both Kaitlyn and Stewart instantly liked Dr. Hill and knew they were in good hands.

“I loved his personality. He’s super smart and direct, but also makes you feel at ease and comfortable. I knew we could trust him, and I thought he provided excellent recommendations,” said Kaitlyn.

At this point of the journey, there was not much Kaitlyn could do differently. Other than being small, Mae was perfect. Dr. Hill and his team wanted to keep close track of Mae’s growth so Kaitlyn would go in weekly for anatomy scans. The scans revealed she was growing and doing just fine until Kaitlyn was 36 weeks along.

During one of her appointments, Kaitlyn’s umbilical Doppler reading was elevated. A Doppler reading is used in the third trimester of pregnancy to detect the well-being of the fetus. When such a reading is high, it could be a sign that a baby is in distress. Dr. Hill was brought in for a consult, and he decided that Kaitlyn would deliver Mae at 37 weeks.

Kaitlyn was all set for a delivery day of August 10. But during her appointment the day before, another umbilical Doppler reading showed it had jumped to 99%, which was concerning to Dr. Hill. Kaitlyn’s team decided August 9 would be Mae’s birthday.

The C-section with Dr. Peter Hsu at CHofSA was uneventful, and at that time, everyone thought Mae was doing just fine. But shortly after birth, Mae was having issues breathing, and her heartbeat was not where it should be. 

Baby Mae was welcomed into the world on August 9 and quickly taken to the neonatal intensive care unit.

“The next thing we knew, Mae was being rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU),” Stewart, Mae’s father, recalls. “Things went from bad to worse – to the point of them telling us she was one of the sickest babies under their care. Her lungs had not fully developed, and it was terrifying.”

During the next 48 hours, Mae as they began to call her and nicknamed “Mighty Mae” by her godmother, would have to be intubated and put on a ventilator with a feeding tube to survive.

During these medical procedures, Stewart was taking care of Ella at home and helping Kaitlyn’s mother. When he realized just how bad things were with Mae, he rushed back to the NICU and fearing the worst, he started scanning the room franticly for a priest as there were numerous doctors, nurses, and staff all surrounding Mae’s bedside. He was scared to death for his brand-new baby girl. It was torture for Kaitlyn and Stewart not to be able to hold Mae, but they had complete confidence in the CHofSA team.

Mae was put on a feeding tube and umbilical catheters were placed in her belly button for the medication to enter. And within 48 to 72 hours, Baby Mae was on the road to recovery. Once she started on the medicine, she turned the corner a made small improvements every day.

Kaitlyn and Stewart were so grateful to the team for saving Mae’s life and acting so quickly. They were so thankful that they brought food in three times a day for more than 70 care team members during their 12-day journey in the NICU and kept the meals coming even after they left.

“The doctors and nurses were just phenomenal. It felt like a little family. I was hysterical during the first few days of Mae’s life and I was amazed at how supportive and loving the NICU family treated me. We wanted to do something to show our thanks for all they did to help Mae,” said Kaitlyn. “Drs. Maria Pierce, Sowmya Mohan, and Cody Henderson and all the nurses and staff were absolutely incredible. Even Dr. Hsu, who delivered Mae, checked in on her in the NICU every day.”

Reflecting on the entire experience, both Kaitlyn and Stewart are particularly appreciative of Dr. Carlton. She had the foresight to suggest Kaitlyn deliver at CHofSA just in case there were any issues with Mae’s delivery. Kaitlyn knew how important it was to deliver at a facility with a NICU just in case something happened but did not ever think she would actually need to use it. Kaitlyn and Stewart now believe without a doubt that recommendation saved Mae’s life.

“We hope to have another baby in the next three years, and even if I have an uncomplicated pregnancy, I’m going to deliver at CHofSA. I know how important it is to have a plan in case something goes wrong like in Mae’s case,” said Kaitlyn.

The Skloss family is happy to have Baby Mae at home where she continues to gain weight and thrive.

Today, Baby Mae as they now call her, is at home. Weighing just over 10 lbs., she continues to gain more weight and Ella is enjoying her role as big sister.

While they are still not sure exactly what caused their daughter to go into distress after she was born, there is one thing they know for sure: they were at the right place at the right time.

“Everyone was fantastic, and we feel incredibly blessed that our paths intersected the doctors, nurses and management who took such great care of us at CHofSA,” said Stewart.

To learn more about the neonatal intensive care unit at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, please visit:

Overcoming the Odds

Emily Strange didn’t realize she was pregnant until she was about 26 weeks along. Because she had Type 1 diabetes, she didn’t experience any of the usual symptoms of pregnancy. Emily and her boyfriend, Brandon, were shocked to receive the news.

“When I learned I was pregnant, I was a bit scared because I didn’t feel prepared. Most people have nine months to prepare; I had about three,” said Emily.

At the same appointment, Emily decided to learn the gender of her first-born baby:  a little boy she decided to name Colton.

Airing on the side of caution, her obstetrician at San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC) decided to hospitalize her to make sure her blood sugar levels stayed within the normal range. If they went too high, it could have been dangerous for little Colton.

After about three days in the hospital, Emily was able to go home and enjoy some quality time with family and friends before Colton’s arrival. She also was able to have a baby shower.

Emily didn’t find out she was pregnant until she was 26 weeks along. She only had a short time to prepare for the birth of her son.

Everything was going smoothly. Because Emily was high risk, she had to go in weekly for what is known as a non-stress test. A non-stress test is a common prenatal test used to check on a baby’s health.

When she was about 36 weeks along, Emily went in for a routine non-stress test. After they hooked her up, they noticed Colton’s heartbeat was too low.

“They tried every trick in the book. They gave me some ice-cold water, put some vibration on my belly, and moved me to my side in hopes that Colton would wake up, but there were no spikes in his heart rate,” said Emily.

Doctors decided to do an ultrasound to see if everything was okay. The next thing she knew, Emily was told that Colton would be arriving that day – about four weeks before his original due date. All Emily could think about was that the car seat hadn’t been installed and that she had no stroller. How could this be happening now?

Emily desired to have a natural birth, but because of Colton’s condition, it was best that she have a C-section to get him out of the womb as soon as possible. At 8:35 p.m., Colton came into the world and Emily remembers a nurse showing her Colton quickly and then rushing him off to a corner of the room to an incubator.

“There was no crying nor any excitement, and I wondered what was going on,” remembers Emily.

Colton was having issues breathing and had stopped breathing for a few minutes. Nurses and doctors were doing everything they could to help him.

Around midnight, Emily and Brandon were finally able to meet their baby boy. He was hooked up to multiple machines and was lying on a cooling blanket to regulate his temperature, a scene that broke Emily’s heart. Because he had experienced some brain trauma, they were unable to hold him or even touch him. The NICU doctors and nurses could get his breathing regulated again, and Emily and Brandon thought they had gotten through the worst of it. That is when they learned Colton had hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain.

The doctors at SAMMC told Emily and Brandon that Colton would need surgery to place a shunt. Since they did not have a pediatric neurosurgeon on staff, Colton would need to be transferred to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA).

When the team at CHofSA came to pick up Colton, Emily had to stay behind because she was still recovering from her C-section. Brandon went to be with their newborn son and stayed by his side as much as he could, catching an occasional nap in the car.

As soon as Emily received her discharge papers, she went straight to CHofSA. She couldn’t wait to be reunited with Colton. At this point, he was three days old.

“When I did get to see him, I could put only one finger on him; I couldn’t stroke him because he was just experiencing too much trauma, including seizures. He couldn’t take the extra stimulation,” said Emily.

So, Brandon and Emily would spend hours next to Colton in his incubator. They would read books to him and talk to him. They didn’t know if Colton could hear them, but in case he could, they thought the sound of their voices would be comforting to him.

In many ways, the experience was somewhat of a waiting game until they got results back from an MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound. Colton had experienced quite a bit of swelling in his brain while, at the same time, more fluid was accumulating.

At this point, Emily and Brandon were told that Colton could go blind or deaf or that he would be unable to walk and be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. There were many unknowns, and there was no way to be sure.

Despite several setbacks, Emily and Brandon trusted the expertise of the medical team caring for their son.

Despite being terrified for Colton, Emily and Brandon remained strong for him. They discussed options with the neurosurgeon, Dr. Kimberly Terry, and waited for Colton to have his shunt surgery.

Their plans got derailed when Dr. Terry told them that Colton’s head had become extremely swollen. Dr. Terry said the next step before having the shunt would be to do a series of what are referred to as taps and a reservoir surgery to help manage the fluid in his brain. On July 2, when Colton was less than a month old, he had reservoir surgery and came out like a champ.

“It was really frightening. I had never experienced anyone having brain surgery before. And it seemed like forever in the waiting room,” said Emily. “And then Dr. Terry came out and said the surgery went great and that Colton had had his first haircut. She even saved the hair as a keepsake for me.”

Colton was one step closer to receiving his shunt, which meant one step closer to going home.

On August 18, Colton had his shunt surgery. And on August 25, Emily and Brandon were able to take their baby boy home after spending 80 days in the NICU.

Before leaving the hospital, the NICU team made sure Colton was able to sit in his car seat safely for the ride home.

While being in the NICU wasn’t exactly where they planned or hoped to be, Emily said it was a positive experience. The nurses in the NICU went the extra mile and decorated his bed for Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, and back-to-school.

“The team at CHofSA made us feel like family. We never felt uncomfortable, and they always made us feel welcome. The doctors and surgeons, including Dr. Kimberly Terry, Dr. Maria Pierce, and Linh Reeves, did a great job of keeping us informed and reassuring us, even when they had to deliver bad news. It was a great experience,” said Emily.

As for Colton, he loves being at home. He gets to be with his mom and dad all day, and they all enjoy that. While he’s hitting some of his newborn milestones, he’s not hitting them as a full-term baby would due to the issues with his brain. He has regular weekly appointments with different specialists to check on his progress and Emily is hopeful he will start to catch up.

“We don’t know what the future will bring. For now, we are taking it one precious day at a time,” said Emily.

Blessing in Disguise

A complicated pregnancy led Sabrina to seek care at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio for herself and her baby boy.

Sabrina Vides and her husband, Ernesto, always planned to have more kids, but they didn’t think it would happen so soon. When their oldest son was 4 years old, Sabrina discovered she was pregnant with a second baby, a surprise to both her and Ernesto.

Her pregnancy was going well, and she was not having any horrible morning sickness. It was smooth sailing until she had an anatomy scan.

Sabrina’s pregnancy was progressing well until she was diagnosed with both placenta previa and placenta accreta.

“I knew something was wrong because the ultrasound techs kept dropping clues,” said Sabrina. “They kept telling me that they couldn’t get an accurate read and that they couldn’t see the placenta well.  The whole experience made me so anxious, and I just wanted to know what was going on.”

She finished her appointment and went home, apprehensive about the results. About a week later, Sabrina learned she had a condition known as placenta previa, where the placenta is situated low in the uterus and covers the cervix. It can make for an extremely dangerous delivery. They also suspected Sabrina had placenta accreta, where the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall, which could put Sabrina at risk of hemorrhaging during delivery.

“I was completely overwhelmed. I hadn’t heard of those conditions before, and I didn’t know what it all meant,” said Sabrina.

Doctors put Sabrina on bedrest. She was instructed to “take it easy” and stay off her feet as much as possible.

About five weeks after her anatomy scan, when she was about 27 weeks, Sabrina started cramping and experienced some bleeding. She thought she was having Braxton Hicks contractions. At that point, she decided she did not need to go to the hospital and instead needed to hydrate and go to bed.

The following day, she felt something and thought her water had broken, but it was blood. Sabrina’s worst fear was that she had miscarried her baby boy, who she already named Aldo. Ernesto whisked Sabrina to the hospital, which thankfully was only about 15 minutes away.

Upon arrival, Sabrina was admitted to labor and delivery. By the time they inserted an IV to help stop the contractions, she had stopped bleeding. Sabrina ended up staying in the hospital for three days but was told that if she were to have a second bleed, she would need to be in the hospital for the duration of her pregnancy.

So, she came home and went back on bedrest. But sure enough, two days later, she had her second bleed. She knew what she needed to do – and that was to get back to the hospital.

“When I got to the hospital, it hit me that I was not leaving for a while. I was going to be there until I delivered Aldo, and I couldn’t hold back the tears,” she said.

And this is when Sabrina’s path intersected with Dr. Emma Rodriguez’s at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA).

Sabrina had finally met a physician who could explain to her exactly what was happening and who had a plan to deliver Aldo safely. Dr. Rodriguez reassured Sabrina that she and the rest of her team would be there for her and explained every scenario – both the good and the bad – so that Sabrina could understand exactly what was going on.

Sabrina was grateful for the way Dr. Emma Rodriguez helped her understand the risks associated with her pregnancy and that an entire team of specialists would keep close watch over her with plans in place to provide a safe delivery.

About 32 weeks in, while one of her nurses was giving Sabrina her prenatal vitamins, she had her fourth bleed. The nurse acted quickly and knew exactly what to do.

“Dr. Rodriguez and her team did not want to risk me hemorrhaging, which is a huge risk of placenta previa. So, they got me prepped to do a C-section,” said Sabrina.

Because her doctors suspected she had a placental accreta, they decided the best course of action was to do a vertical incision. Doctors had also explained there would be a chance Sabrina would have to have a hysterectomy to prevent hemorrhaging – something that is often done when women have placenta accreta. The team at CHofSA had everything prepped in case a hysterectomy was necessary.

When they wheeled Sabrina into the operating room, the entire team was ready for her – her obstetrician, Dr. Hatem Hatem, the maternal-fetal medicine doctor, the anesthesiologist – everyone was prepared for whatever Sabrina needed. 

“Even though it was a scary experience, it was so comforting that everyone knew what to do. They were so prepared,” said Sabrina.

They proceeded with the C-section and delivered Aldo, and then informed Sabrina that a hysterectomy was inevitable to control the bleeding due to the placenta invading the uterus and cervix.

Recovery was a bit hard since she lost 2.5 liters of blood during delivery, she would faint each time she got up out of bed to start walking. Sabrina ended up having to get a blood transfusion on her third day of recovery.

A few days after her recovery, Sabrina was able to meet Aldo in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Right after he was born, he had some issues breathing, so he was put on C-pap oxygen. Aside from that, he had no major problems, and the focus was to get him to eat and grow so he could go home.

In total, Sabrina was in the hospital for a month before her delivery – a long time to be away from home and her family. During this time, Sabrina forged relationships with the CHofSA chaplain and social workers, who provided her with a network of support. She also found comfort in joining several Facebook groups of mothers who had gone through similar experiences.

“I tried to keep myself busy but I did cry a lot,” remembers Sabrina. “I turned to the Bible during that time and would read verses. I tried to remind myself that God wasn’t going to give me more than I could handle.”

Through it all, Dr. Rodriguez rose to the occasion to take care of Sabrina and navigate her through a highly challenging pregnancy.

“She was a blessing during my darkest times. It was Dr. Rodriguez who helped me truly understand what was going on and reassured me that everything would be OK. She would never rush and always take time for me,” said Sabrina. “She was my angel.”

As for the rest of the team, Sabrina can’t say enough about them either.

“The nurses were amazing and truly made my long stay unforgettable – not in a bad way but in a really good way. They took their time with everything, and even after I had the C-section, some of them would come to check on me,” she said. “The nurses who took care of me after my hysterectomy were just as wonderful and caring.”

Having a baby in the NICU was something new to Sabrina, so she was extremely grateful for the nurses who explained everything to her and eased her fears about seeing her baby on tubes and machines. They would tell her that it all would be OK and became an integral part of Aldo’s journey.

Born at 32 weeks gestation, Aldo needed help getting oxygen. Sabrina was uneasy seeing all the tubes around him, but the NICU nurses reassured her that he would be just fine.

“I can’t say thank you enough to Renee and Becky. When I first saw Aldo with all the tubes, I was so scared and they told me everything was going to be OK,” said Sabrina. “Everyone is amazing, and we will always be so grateful for their professionalism, kindness, and outstanding care,” she said.

Aldo stayed in the NICU for 51 days and officially graduated on September 29. Sabrina is very excited and relieved to finally have him home and reunited with his older brother, Adrian, who loves helping take care of Aldo and is a great help. Aldo recently had his two-month checkup and weighs almost nine pounds and his pediatrician said he is meeting all his milestones.

When he was 51 days old, Aldo graduated from the NICU at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. His mom Sabrina is grateful for the care she received at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, which also became the best place for Aldo to get the care he needed when he was born prematurely.

If you are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy or pregnancy complications, please contact the Centers for Maternal and Fetal Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio to make an appointment with one of our specially trained and highly experienced physicians. For more information, visit our webpage:

A rare diagnosis for a rare pregnancy

When Bren Brown was pregnant for the third time, she remembers having bouts of intense morning sickness. Already having two young boys at home, ages 5 and 3, she and her husband wanted to try for just one more, hoping to get a little girl this time. But this pregnancy was already starting off a little differently. She jokingly told her husband, Rogers, that terrible morning sickness could be a sign she was having multiples. Rogers shrugged off the comment, and so did she.

The Brown family hoped to complete their family by having a baby girl. They were surprised to learn triplets were on the way. Doctors at the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care helped them bring home three healthy girls.

Because Bren’s previous pregnancies went so well and she had no complications, she had decided to use midwives to deliver her third baby. Upon arrival for her ultrasound at the 10-week mark, the midwife did an ultrasound and right away noticed two sacs.

“I couldn’t believe it. There were two in there,” remembers Bren. As the appointment continued the midwife saw a third baby. She was shocked, and so was her husband. “We were expecting just one baby, and here we were about to have three. So, it was a huge surprise,” Bren recollects.

Midwives do not deliver multiples, so Bren would need to find another option. Understanding that carrying triplets put her at high risk, she knew she needed to find a maternal-fetal medicine doctor.

When she went to her first maternal-fetal medicine appointment, she was only 12 weeks along, so the doctor asked her to return in three weeks, when she would be 15 weeks. At that appointment, she received some upsetting news. The doctor told her that the situation for her babies, particularly for the third she had already named Caemlyn, was dire. Baby Caemlyn had no amniotic fluid and didn’t appear to have a bladder.

At this appointment, she was diagnosed with stage II twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), which meant there was an unequal sharing of blood and fluid across the babies’ sacks. Twin-twin transfusion syndrome affects approximately 5 to 15 percent of identical twin pregnancies and is extremely rare in triplet pregnancies.

The doctor told Bren there was nothing they could do and to come back for a follow-up appointment when she was 22 weeks along. If the babies survived until then they would discuss a referral for surgery. She was told that if the TTTS progressed to stage IV it would cause either death or defects in the brain or heart for one or all of her babies.

Determined to get a second opinion and fight for all three of her babies, Bren jumped online and found the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

“I called and told them I needed a consult for twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. They asked me who was referring me, and I told them I was referring myself,” she said.

Upon hearing about Bren’s situation, Dr. Emma Rodriguez, a maternal fetal care specialist with the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care, agreed to see her and referred her to a top program in Houston. Doctors there looked at her scans and said it was too early to have a surgery since she was still only 15 weeks. The inner amnion and the outer chorion do not fuse until 16 weeks, so surgery before then would cause the amniotic sac to rupture.

Dr. Emma Rodriguez, a maternal-fetal specialist at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, monitored Bren’s pregnancy and guided her to an expert in fetal surgery in Houston to help ensure the Brown triplets received the care they needed before they were even born.

Rodriguez and her team saw Bren three times a week, wanting to get her to the required 18 weeks the program in Houston required for surgery. But, when Bren was about 17 weeks along, she became anxious and had a feeling that if she did not have surgery soon, all three of her babies would not make it.

So, she decided to drive from San Antonio to Houston alone, leaving her husband to look after their boys so she could meet Dr. Anthony Johnson, Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and Co-Director of The Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, to discuss her pregnancy and the possibility of a TTTS surgery. When his office did some initial tests, it was clear that baby Caemlyn’s condition had gotten worse and that she had progressed to stage III. They agreed it was time to do the surgery, and it couldn’t wait. They moved forward with the surgery that day.

“My husband and I talked to Dr. Johnson at length about the pros and cons and decided it was best to move forward,” said Bren. “Come to find out, if I had waited much longer, my other babies Avalyn and Brighlyn, wouldn’t have made it either, or there would have been lots of complications.”

Bren was right to trust her instincts. All three baby girls survived the surgery, and a few days later, Bren returned home to San Antonio.

Bren bravely trusted her instincts while pregnant with triplets. By self-referring herself to the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care and by later driving by herself to Houston to convince doctors there that one of her babies could not wait any longer to receive a life-saving surgery while still in utero.

After the surgery, Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. John Byrne would see Bren weekly and monitor her closely. Dr. Rodriguez wanted to get Bren to 32 weeks before performing a C-section. Aside from receiving an extra iron transfusion in preparation for a C-section, the rest of Bren’s pregnancy went smoothly.

On May 10, 2021, at her goal of 32 weeks, Bren had her C-section.

“Brighlyn came out first by her feet and I didn’t hear her cry but the other two cried right away,” remembers Brenlyn.  “They put the regular CPAP machine on them to see how they did and took them straight to the neonatal intensive care unit. When I was able to walk after my C-section recovery, I went down to the NICU and I was able to hold them which was amazing.”

The babies spent a little over a month in the NICU and reached all their goals including tolerating mom’s breast milk and gaining weight. Their siblings loved seeing pictures of their sisters and anxiously awaited their homecoming.   

“I don’t think they understand the magnitude of us bringing them home and what that will mean for them!” said Bren.

Baby Caemlyn, the one they were most concerned about, is the biggest of all three. All the babies were discharged on June 26 and Bren is excited to have her family together again.

“They seem to be doing well and are doing what babies do – sleeping, eating, and pooping,” said Bren.

Even though they weren’t planning for three more children, especially all at once, the Browns are excited about their new additions. They are grateful to Dr. Rodriguez and the entire team at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio for making sure each triplet had a fighting chance to survive and join their family. It was through the dedicated monitoring of her pregnancy at the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care and the partnership with the fetal care team at Children’s Memorial Hermann and UTHealth that helped make sure these babies made it into this world safely.

“Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Byrne took great care of me and everyone in the NICU took such good care of the girls,” said Brenlyn. “We just had a really positive experience here and I am super excited that everyone is now home and healthy.”

Double the love. Twice the Joy.

Casey Vanderstoep was excited to be a first-time mom.

On the day of her first ultrasound, she went by herself. It was in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so her husband, Peter, could not go with her. The ultrasound revealed something Casey could not believe. Instead of having one baby, she would be having two.

“We were in complete shock. You never think it’s going to happen to you, but it was happening to us, we were having twins,” recalls Casey.

Casey had what she described as an amazing first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Her only real complaint was that she was tired all the time. Otherwise, she continued being active, working out and doing projects around the house. She loved being pregnant.

Things changed quickly for Casey. One day she started leaking fluid. Assuming it was normal, she didn’t think much about it but ended up talking to an on-call doctor through her obstetrician’s office to give her peace of mind.

But that night, when she was only 20 weeks and two days pregnant, her water broke. She describes it as “bursting” in the middle of the night. There was water everywhere. So, Casey and Peter quickly packed up and headed to CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – New Braunfels.

Upon arrival, Casey was leaking an unbelievable amount of fluid.  They immediately started an IV, and she was put on magnesium. If she was going to deliver the babies that night, they wanted Casey to have all the benefits of magnesium to protect the babies’ brains.

“The next day, my doctor came by. He told me that there was no evidence of any contractions and that I was not going into labor,” said Casey. “That was the good news. The bad news was that I needed to go on complete bed rest.”

Casey was admitted to the hospital and put on bedrest and magnesium from March 8 to March 23. Even though the magic number to transfer Casey to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio was 23 weeks, they decided to do so a little earlier. She was transferred via ambulance to Children’s when she was 22 weeks and four days along. After her arrival, her doctors gave her steroid shots to help the babies’ lungs.

Casey was transferred through the highly specialized pediatric and maternal emergency transport team at Children’s. Their dedicated Maternal Transport Team has the ability to safely and quickly deliver care to pregnant women who are experiencing complications and are in need of a higher level of care, which is what Casey needed as the delivery of her babies’ was imminent.

When she got there, she was put under the care of Dr. Douglas Creedon. For a few days, things were moving along well. Casey was able to go outside in a wheelchair and had a short reprieve from the bedrest.

At about 24 and a half weeks, Casey was having painful contractions. Nurses hooked her up to monitors and started administering magnesium again. She also received a second dose of steroids for the babies’ lungs. She contracted on and off for about four to five days.

Casey was now 25 weeks and 2 days into her pregnancy. One of the babies was in distress and had a heart rate that kept dropping. Her physician, Dr. Jacqueline Battistelli, said it was game time. Instead of having a vaginal delivery, they prepared Casey for a C-section.

Dr. Jacqueline Battestelli, an obstetric hospitalist at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, performed a C-section to deliver the Vanderstoep twins in April.

“This wasn’t my birth plan and it wasn’t at all how I imagined it,” said Casey. “But I felt really at peace with it. Of course, I was a little scared, but I also was calm. I just knew it was time, and I kept reminding myself that it was a miracle these babies made it this far. I had faith in God that everything was going to be OK.”

For several reasons, Casey ended up getting put to sleep for the procedure, and when she woke up, her first question to her husband who was sitting by her bedside was, “Are the babies alive?” Her husband confirmed that they had both made it.

Camryn and Chandler were born on April 11 both weighing exactly one pound and 10 ounces. They were immediately whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit.

When Casey was still pregnant, Dr. Cody Henderson, a neonatologist, had told Casey and Peter there was a high chance that Chandler would need to be intubated at birth. When Casey’s water broke five weeks prior, little amniotic fluid surrounded Chandler and for the rest of her pregnancy. To their surprise, neither of the babies needed to be intubated. It was the best news Casey and her husband had received up until this point.

At first, Casey was apprehensive about seeing them.

“I knew they weren’t going to look like regular babies,” said Casey. “I was scared and anxious.”

When she did go meet her baby girls, she would reach into their isolates and just hold their little hands. In the NICU, Casey and Peter had the good fortune of meeting a nurse, Bailey, who they formed an instant connection with.

“She was an absolute godsend to us and was the one who encouraged me to hold my babies,” said Casey. “Camryn was actually just four days old and Bailey came over and asked me if I wanted to hold her. I didn’t even think it was possible at this point. But she said, ‘no, let’s do it. We’re going to make this happen.’  So she did and I got to hold Camyrn on day four and we did skin-to-skin and she was so small.”

Casey was thrilled to hold one of her baby girls for the first time.

Soon after they were born, doctors determined the identical twins both had a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), an opening between two major blood vessels leading from the heart, affecting the blood flow to and from their lungs and other organs. They would need a procedure to correct the PDA, called a Piccolo procedure and a procedure that Children’s had a lot of experience doing which made Casey feel more at ease.

Casey and Peter met with the cardiologist, who explained the procedure. Both Casey and Peter were scared, but they knew Camryn and Chandler needed it.

The morning they were both scheduled for the procedure, Peter received a call from the doctor. Both girls’ PDAs had gotten smaller overnight, and neither of them would need the surgery after all.  It was another miracle.

Soon after the twins were born, they were diagnosed with a patent ductus arteriosis (PDA) that would require each girl to have a heart procedure. On the day it was scheduled, doctors found that the heart defect had grown smaller and an intervention was no longer needed.

Today the babies are still at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and both doing well. They are expected to go home this summer. Doctors have performed scans on the twins’ brains and have done eye exams. Neither baby has shown any signs of problems which is miraculous for babies born at 25 weeks.

Casey credits the team at Children’s for saving her babies’ lives.

“They are the reason my children are here. The care they give them every single day is unbelievable. I thank them from the bottom of my heart,” said Casey. “The hospital is home to us now. We know the people at the front desk and lots of the staff. These are probably the nicest people I’ve ever met.”

Until the babies are released to go home, Casey and Peter live at the Ronald McDonald House inside the hospital, which has proved itself to be a safe haven, allowing the Vandersteops to see Camryn and Chandler every day. Casey had volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House when she was in a sorority in college so things had come full circle now and she appreciated that there was a place she could stay and remain close to the babies.

The twin girls continue to grow stronger each day they are in the NICU.

“I can’t thank my husband, my entire family, friends and my coworkers enough. They were such a solid support system through all of this and have been doing everything they can do get me through this incredible journey,” said Casey.  “In particular, I want to thank Dr. Battistelli, Dr. Creedon, Dr. Perikh, Dr. DeVries, Dr. Motta, Dr. Pierce, Dr. Mohan, and nurses Bailey, Rachel, and Kristen. This has been the hardest journey but so worth it. We have our girls, and it’s because of this wonderful team of caregivers.”