When Katie Koblenzer Orendorf woke up on July 26, 2016 with sharp pains, she thought she had pulled her back golfing the day before. Luckily she went to Cleveland Clinic Akron General because, at 26 weeks pregnant with twins, she was going into labor.
A hospital resident told her they were going to administer a shot to stop labor, but Katie’s placenta ruptured. Her obstetrician immediately came in, looked at her and called an emergency.
“Many staff ran in, which was terrifying,” said Katie. “And then my obstetrician said, ‘these babies are coming right now.’”
Less than 10 minutes later, the first twin, Connor, was born at 2 lb. 5 oz. His brother, Grant, followed a few minutes later at 1 lb. 15 oz. The twins were immediately taken to Akron Children’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
That started a long and emotional NICU journey for the Orendorf family.
“During Connor’s first few days of life, he developed a grade three bilateral brain bleed,” Katie said. “Unfortunately, this is somewhat common in very premature births.”
Connor spent 83 days in the NICU and was released in October after Dr. Tsulee Chen, director of pediatric neurosurgery, placed a shunt in his brain to relieve pressure and fluid. His brother Grant had a long road ahead of him.
“Grant’s lungs were not developed as well as Connor’s and he was on a ventilator for a very long time,” Katie said. “In January, my husband, Harrison, and I had many lengthy discussions with the NICU team on the best plan for Grant. There were discussions on more time, or that he might need to have a tracheostomy because nothing else was really working.”
Dr. Anand Kantak, director of neonatology, and the family’s nurses asked Katie and Harrison to be patient. They were hopeful that with time they could avoid a tracheostomy procedure.
The NICU team’s belief that Grant’s lungs just needed to get stronger proved to be true and, finally, in March, Grant was able to go home on minimal oxygen and a feeding tube.
“While we wanted nothing more to get both of our children home, once we got home it was a very hard transition in the sense that these people were our family for 7 and a half months,” Katie said. “They cared for our children day in and day out. It was very hard to leave people who cared for all of us 232 days.”
“The staff, from the nurses to the doctors, everyone, they truly go went way above and beyond their job duties every single day,” said Katie. “Those nurses, all they are is positive, positive, positive, and that’s how you have to get through each day in the NICU is to be positive.”
Grant is still on a feeding tube and is being weaned off oxygen, but Katie said it’s a true miracle that both boys are home, happy and healthy. The family celebrated the twins’ health and happiness when the boys turned 1 this July, surrounded by friends, family and NICU staff members.
The twins’ grandfather, Dale Koblenzer, expressed the family’s happiness and gratitude surrounding his grandsons’ first birthday in an email to Akron Children’s CEO Bill Considine.
“The thanks I have expressed to the caregivers, medical staff and all that support Akron Children’s will never equal the gifts they have given,” Dale said in his email. “I know that is not their motive. They are dedicated to every child who enters their care and we are blessed to have them.”
“We would not be where we are without the NICU staff,” Katie said. “We owe their lives to Akron Children’s and we are forever grateful.”