When Pam and Art Blommesteijn found out they were expecting twins, they thought they were finally in the clear. The fact that they were expecting twins was the least of their worries. It was, in fact, a welcome bonus. “We thought everything was great,” says a smiling Pam.
After suffering three miscarriages, the couple was hoping this pregnancy would finally be the one. “Then came the ultrasound that shocked us,” adds Pam. At their 19 week ultrasound, Pam and Art found out one of their twin daughters had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Hailey, as she would be named, had a malformation of the diaphragm causing her abdominal organs to push into her lungs.
Pam’s care was immediately transferred to The Ottawa Hospital General Campus where she would be followed by the hospital’s high risk pregnancy clinic. The couple met with CHEO surgeons, who explained that Hailey would need to be ventilated immediately after birth and undergo surgery as soon as possible after birth in order for her to survive.
The couple felt reassured that things would go well after meeting with the CHEO team and knowing what would happen after the birth. “I knew we were in good hands,” says Pam.
According to Pam, she had read that survival rate for this type of defect is 50 percent internationally. “We knew she might not make it through birth,” she adds, “but we also knew she had a good chance of survival.”
Pam admits she had a very stressful pregnancy, but that did not stop her from enjoying every minute of it. “I loved being pregnant,” she says. “I had a lot of faith that this was meant to be, especially after the miscarriages. I couldn’t control the outcome so there was no sense in stressing.”
To prepare for the twins’ birth and Hailey’s impending surgery, Pam and Art decided they would move in with Pam’s parents after the delivery and when she and Alexandra, Hailey’s twin, were discharged from the hospital. Not only because they live close to CHEO and The Ottawa Hospital General Campus, ”but because I knew my parents could help us through this tough time,” explains Pam.
On November 3, 2010 just short of her 39thth week of pregnancy, Pam gave birth by c-section to twin girls, Hailey and Alexandra. The weeks following the girls’ birth would prove to be both blissful and extremely difficult for the new parents.
Hailey’s surgery took place five days after her birth. A team of experts were present with CHEO surgeon Dr. Marcos Bettolli performing the lifesaving surgery.
Pam reflects on their time spent in hospital, and although she describes it as “a sleep-deprived, stress-addled blur,” the couple is extremely thankful for the care their daughter received at CHEO. “It was just a bad nightmare,” says Pam, “but we had lots of support, especially from the NICU nurses. CHEO has been excellent.”
The busy parents now focus on the future and the joy the girls bring to their lives.
Today Hailey is one year old and full of smiles and giggles. In early October 2011 she underwent laparoscopic surgery to repair a paraesophageal hernia and she continues to have digestive issues which are being monitored by the CHEO team. Both parents maintain a positive attitude and are hopeful the worst is behind them.
Pam and Art both agree that having twins is a lot of work, but “they are ideal babies,” says Pam. “We won the baby lottery with these two.” The couple explains that the girls have very distinct personalities. “Alex is my bull in a china shop,” says Pam. “Hailey is a miniature Art,” she says, smiling at her husband. “She observes, she studies and is very deliberate.”
For Hailey and her sister Alex, life these days is about playing, discovering and growing up together. And that’s exactly how the CHEO team likes it.