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One year ago today-TTTS surgery

One year ago today I was wheeled back into surgery to save the babies lives! TTTS had come in very quickly and I was dilating. This time in my life would be very scary for us and the power of prayer from around the world would change is forever and help to save our babies lives. We are so grateful to God for this miracle and to Dr. Chmait for being so brave and performing a life saving operation to save our babies. Here is the whole story I wrote out for our records just this last week and I felt the need to share it on this day. 

Monday October 20th 2014–19 weeks and 5 days pregnant

This day would be one of the most scary days of my life. 

My entire pregnancy had gone actually pretty perfect up until this point-well, for quads. I had been seeing my maternal fetal medicine doctor for 8 weeks now every single week on Thursdays. They would do an ultrasound of the girls and make sure everything was looking good. They would do a quick fluid check to make sure it was pretty even between all the girls. Our first appointment ever with Dr Schemmer he had of course gone over all the concerns and stuff he would be watching for during my pregnancy. The main thing with my situation that would be the most concerning would be something called Twin To Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). The babies were what they call mono-di twins meaning that each set of twins was in their own sac and then each baby in each sac had their own little sac separating them. He said this was the best possible scenario for our situation. It would cause the least amount of risks and gave the babies the best chance. Each set of twins shared a placenta. So to break it down 2 eggs were put back, both stuck and both split which gives us our two sets of identical twins. Each set of twins were in their own big sac together and within each of those big sacs there was a membrane separating each baby from each other. 

Back to TTTS

TTTS can occur between sets of identical twins because they share a placenta. The placenta is where the babies draw their nutrients from. TTTS occurs when one baby gives all the nutrients to the other and the other doesn’t give any back. Causing the one who is giving to be a bit smaller and has minimal fluid around them. The one who is keeping all the nutrients is also in trouble because their heart is working overtime pumping all that fluid that they can go into heart failure.

On my appointment on the 16th, which was my regular Thursday appointment, everything looked great. Dr. Schemmer lets me know that the following Thursday he would be out of town and he could see me on Monday-which was just a few days away or see me the following Monday which would just be a few day past when I normal go in. I remember my first thought being “ The following Monday is probably fine because it is just few days later.” then I got this overwhelming feeling deep inside to come in on the Monday 20th. I told him I felt better about coming back in just 4 days to get a quick check before he headed out then we could just resume our original schedule after that. He said that would be fine-he was always great at accommodating my anxious mind and saw me more than he probably thought he needed to. 
That next Monday on the 20th would be the start of the scariest 72 hours of my life. Up until this point Tyson had been to every single appointment with me. His work at the time was great at accommodating our now crazy life. This particular day Tyson was kinda backed up on work and I told him to not worry about coming. He asked if I was sure and I told him it was just a quick check and my mom was going to go with me. Up until this point everything was great and everything was progressing perfectly. I walked into the office and the ultrasound tech started our routine. She was always so fun and made so many jokes. This day she was still upbeat and happy but she got a little more serious when she started to do my ultrasound. She measured the fluid around baby A and baby B (Indie and Esme) and then measured and measured again. After about 20 minutes of measuring when this appointment was only suppose to be about 5 or 10 minutes tops, She informs me that baby B doesn’t have a lot of fluid and she would grab the doctor really quick. What did this mean? Was there a problem? I knew this couldn’t be good but I didn’t know what it was. She left the room and I burst into tears. My mom tried to comfort me but I could see the fear in her eyes as well. Tyson had been texting me this entire time just checking up on me and I called him right away. I was bawling so hard I could hardly speak, I just wanted him there with me. I was mad that this is the one appointment he didn’t come to and this was the one that I needed him for. My mom took the phone from me and explained all that we knew-which wasn’t much at this time because the doctor hadn’t been in yet. He asked her if he needed to leave and come down right now. She said to just hang on one minute so we could talk to the doctor and see what he had to say. Tyson was on the edge of his seat waiting for our call back. 

Dr. Schemmer came in and grabbed the ultrasound and had a look for himself, he explained to me that this was a case of TTTS but he didn’t know how bad it was yet. He was trying to find a bladder on Baby B (Esme) and he searched for 45 minutes and could not find it. I burst into tears again and my mom called tyson back and said “You better get down here.” Dr. Schemmer called the tech back into the room and told her to check my cervix. He was standing up staring at the screen very intently. So were my mom and I. We didn’t know what we were looking for but we wanted it to be some sort of positive news. The image pops up on the screen and the Dr. says “DANG IT” and walked out of the room. I was uncontrollable at this point. I looked at the tech and said “WHAT DID HE SEE? WHAT IS HAPPENING?” He comes back in the room sits down in front of me and said “You are dilated to a 2. You need to fly out of Utah asap and get surgery for TTTS.” He then wanted to wait for tyson to get their before discussing any further. 

Tyson said he has never driven that fast in all his life. He was so scared and didn’t know what was happening. Once he arrived Dr. Schemmer sat us down in his office and told us all the scary details. Baby A and Baby b are a stage 2 TTTS case and my cervix was dilating and I was at a 2 today. This type of thing came on so fast and would progress very quickly. We would need to get to a surgeon fast. He put me on immediate strict bed rest. He said to do NOTHING other than what I had to do to get myself to California. 

There are only 5 people in the united states that preforms this surgery and none of them are located in Utah. He told us a list of states and for some reason we both without even talking to each other would say California at the same time. We were on the same page and I am so happy we chose this doctor. 

Dr. Schemmer gave us his office for awhile to set everything up. He called Dr. Chmait in California and told them the situation. We set everything up there on the phone with them and worked out a lot of our arraignments with them. While we were doing this my mom stepped out into the hall and called my sister Leslie who jumped on and started looking at flights for us. They confirmed with us and she booked them right away so we didn’t have to worry about a thing. I am so thankful they stepped in and took care of all this and took so much pressure off us. Heaven knows we were under enough. 

The soonest flight out would be the next morning at 6am. Tyson and I didn’t say much to each other that night. We just sat and held each other and rubbed my tummy. We didn’t have to say anything. We were in the most terrifying situation of our lives. We have worked so hard to get these babies and now we have them and now I could lose them all. We prayed so hard. Our families called that night to get the story about what was happening and to let us know they were thinking about us. I didn’t want anyone to know. I was scared! It was so easy to share my joy with the world but it was the hardest thing in the world to share my pain. 

At this time we had around 33,000 followers on our facebook page. I had been updating them every week on our progress and they were so amazing and supportive. I didn’t want to disappoint them. The next morning we flew to california. My body was hurting so much from all the extra fluid pushing my cervix open and I was contracting along with all the other regular pregnancy pains I had been dealing with. I cried a lot and when I cried Tyson stayed strong for me. When I stopped crying Tyson cried and I held strong for him. We would continue this way for the next few days. My mom came with us for the support and to help take care of all the little things that we just couldn’t think about like insurance and rental car stuff and anything else we needed. 

When we got to Dr. Chmait in California we were exhausted. Tyson and I hadn’t slept much the night before. We just laid awake and pondered what was about to happen over the next few day. The doctor was running behind in a surgery and we would have to wait for 3 extra hours. They took us to an exam room and let us sleep. I fell right asleep and my mom just watched me as tyson sat by my side and wrote all his feeling in a journal. We were all on edge and just wanted some answers. This time would feel like eternity waiting. 
The day before when we were on the phone with the office they told us what would happen. We would arrive in LA and head to their office. They would do an extremely detailed scan of the babies and my cervix and would literally measure every inch of every baby. After that they would assess the situation and figure out a game plan. They said that from there we would go check into a hotel and be back at the hospital the next morning for surgery. Once they finished the scan that took about an hour and a half and was pretty uncomfortable Dr. Chmait would come in and talk to us. He said that over night the girls had progressed to a stage 3 TTTS and I had dilated to a 3. He told me I wasn’t even allowed to sit up. He made me stay laying down and told me that this was progressing faster than he had ever seen. He told me that I would not be checking into a hotel that night. I would be admitted to the hospital right then. He looked me in the eyes an said “Ashley, If you would have been here one day later you would have gone into full blow labor and there would have been nothing anyone could have done. You would have lost all 4 babies.”
-Remember that I almost didn’t get check until the next week. I would have lost them all. 

They wheeled me over to the room I would spend the night in waiting for surgery. He gave me medication to stop contractions and medication to help me sleep-the sleeping pill didn’t work and the contractions tapered off a bit but were still coming strong. This would be the worst night ever.  
My sister Whitney called a lot ,just like all our other family, to check in. Everyone was totally shaken and so scared for us and the babies. Everyones emotions were raw and they all felt our pain and fear. She helped us run our page at this time and she asked if she should post it to let everyone know. I told her NO! I didn’t want anyone to post anything about it anywhere. I just didn’t want anyone to know. She says “Ok, just let me know when you want 33,000 people to start praying for you and the babies.” I thought about this for awhile and I knew it couldn’t hurt. I finally told her to post it. What happened next would be something I would never forget. Immediately people were commenting on the post and writing on our page and messaging us. People from all religions were praying for us. people from all over the world in many different countries were literally writing their prayers out in our comments. I have never felt pray like that in that magnitude. People were praying in every language. hundreds of messages came in, we couldn’t even keep up.

These comments and messages would get us though the hardest time in our lives. We all laid awake all night taking turns crying and reading people messages to us. I specifically remember one person who messages us. I know that I happened to see this one because It would change me forever. Her message said “I just read about what is happening with you and the babies and I don’t even know you but I burst into tears. I haven’t prayed or talked to God in 10 years but when I read this I couldn’t help myself. I fell to my knees and prayed. These babies have to be ok. I just know they will. I felt so comforted after my prayer. Please God, protect these babies.” This woman was from another country and had never met me. So many people had love for my babies, people I didn’t know and probably would never know. I had an army of people behind me praying for the safety of my babies. This was such an amazing experience of the world coming together in prayer to save my babies. 

On this post where people were writing out their prayers and praying to their own higher power no one was confrontational, difference of religion didn’t matter to anyone. Everyone felt our fear and our pain and everyone came together in unity to lift us up. 

The next morning was surgery. All three of us mostly just sat up all night thinking and crying. They wheeled in a bed for tyson and my mom tried to sleep in the car. No one wanted to leave to a hotel and leave me there. It just didn’t fell right. I needed them there with me. The doctor told us that after the TTTS surgery if everything went well that he would preform a cerclage on me. That is when they stitch the cervix closed to keep it from dilating. I would be slightly sedated for all of this but they would need me awake. 

They had come in to get me changed into a gown and all prepped for surgery. We all said a prayer that everything would be ok. I have never been so scared in all my life. I was going to be wheeled back to surgery to save my babies lives and I would have to go alone and be awake during one of the most stressful times of my life and it was all out of my control. My babies were dying and I couldn’t do anything to help them. It was all up to the doctor and God now, I just had to stay strong for the babies.  

A few weeks prior to all this happening we had all gone on a tour together of the NICU. They wanted me to see where we would be spending a lot of our time in the near future. At the end of the tour we came out the front doors and there stands this huge picture of Jesus holding a baby in the clouds. I gasped! It took my breath away and I wanted that picture! I knew that Jesus was holding my babies waiting for their time to come down here to be with me. He was holding them and comforting them because he knew of that hard path that they would have to walk just to make it to this world and then to stay here. I didn’t have my phone on my so i looked to my mom and said “take a picture of that painting, I love it.” She snapped a picture on her phone and on we went. 

After our prayer right before going into surgery I had never been so anxious in all my life. I knew that if I just saw that picture that I would feel comforted. I looked at my mom and asked “Do you still have that picture on your phone? I need to see it before I go into surgery.”

I saw the color drain out of her face and her eyes well up with tears “I deleted everything off my phone just two days ago to make more room. Its not possible for it to be on there.” My heart sunk and I said “Ok”. She picked up her phone in desperation wanting to let me see that picture and she had a feeling to just look at her pictures. She started crying and looked at me, everything was deleted off her phone except that one picture. I know this was God giving me a sign that he was there watching over us and that everything was going to be ok. I was still scared but I felt like no matter what happened we would be ok.

The surgery went well and I didn’t feel a thing. One of the cool parts was they had a little tv in there and he took his camera he was doing surgery with and let me look right at Indie’s face. He showed me Ezzy’s feet. That was the sweetest thing I had ever seen. Indie opened her little eyes and looked right into the camera as if she was trying to tell me that she was ok. I will remember that forever. He proceeded to do the cerclage and then I was wheeled into recovery where tyson and my mom rushed in to be by my side. 

The doctor told us that the next 24 hours were crucial to the babies. Sometimes surgery is really hard on babies and they don’t make it though the next 24 hours because of the trauma. These next 24 hours would be the longest of them all. The doctor told us to just pray for 4 heart beats the next day. I tried to sleep most of the 24 hours to pass the time quickly. My sister updated our Facebook page again and let everyone know that the surgery went well but now we waited and to pray for 4 heartbeats in the morning. Again, our followers came though for us and prayed with us again. We all rejoiced that the surgery went well and now it was all up to God. We prayed for 4 little heartbeats for the next morning. 

 24 hours came and went and we started wheeling over to do the ultrasound to check on our little nuggets. I had this overall feeling that they were ok. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have any doubt or worry but I had faith that they were ok. They started the ultrasound and she checked C and D first. This was Scarlett and Evie. They were not the ones who had the surgery but they also had to go under the trauma to save their sisters and this could have affected them as well. Scarlett was first, we all watched the screen intently and we all saw a flicker, but waited for the confirmation from her. C has a heartbeat. Relief for her and still worry for the rest. We moved onto Evangeline (baby D) and once again we saw a flicker, “ baby D has a heartbeat”. Now we would move to Indie and Esme, these two have undergone so much trauma and have had to fight so hard up until this point. I so wanted all the babies to be ok! She looked over Indie (baby A) and we all saw the flicker! I started to cry, and thank God for watching over us and please let our Esme be ok. Next was Esme, not only were we looking for a heartbeat on her but we also needed to see a bladder. She was the one who wasn’t getting any nutrition and wasn’t eating anything. We also needed to see that the fluid levels stayed evened out over the night to make sure that they surgery was 100% successful. We saw a flicker and knew that we still had our girl and we all held our breath waiting for her to measure the fluid and check for a bladder. She announced that she found a bladder and that the fluid looked great. The doctor came in and said that finding a bladder this soon after surgery never happens. It usually takes a few days for everything to even out again. He was amazed at how everything looked so perfect. This was a medical miracle or just a miracle from God. We now again had 4 healthy babies with 4 healthy heartbeats. We couldn’t ask of anything more.

I am so grateful to Dr. Chmait and his incredible staff. They were so sensitive to my extreme emotions during this time and took incredible care of me. I know I’m my heart we chose the right Doctor. He gave me my family back. Without him we would have lost everything important to us in this life.  Thank you so much! 


-Quad Mama Bear 

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