Twins’ stay in NICU has lasting impact

Brynn (top) and Brie are shown on their second day of life.

For Keith and Addi Mercer, life is about what you’d expect with 9-year-old twin daughters and a 7-year-old son.

“Our life is busy. They’re in sports, they’re in school activities. So it’s just the everyday life of normal people,” said Addi Mercer. “But you wouldn’t have known that nine years ago.”

Nine years ago, Keith and Addi were expecting for the first time, twins, when complications forced Addi into bed rest early in her pregnancy.

“It’s one of the scariest moments of your life. The doctors, the neonatologists, come in and spit out all these different percentages of ‘This can happen, that can happen,’” said Addi. “You’ve got that in your mind and you’re trying to keep your babies inside.”

They welcomed Brie and Brynn in March 2008 at 25 weeks, two days. They weighed less than 2 pounds each.

The two were admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois. It was another six months before the twins were both finally home.

A balancing act

The Mercers posed for their first family photo about a month after the twins were born.

Juggling full-time work and caring for two babies in the NICU was a struggle, but Addi said they made it work with the help of family and the staff at the hospital.

“Our daily routine was you got up, you went to work until 4 or 5 o’clock, you went to the hospital till 11 at night and you started over the next day,” said Addi. “That’s what you do. You call two or three times a day and the nurses are really good about giving you updates. We didn’t know any different.”

Brie and Brynn spent their first two months in incubators. It was a full month before they were well enough for their parents to actually hold them – and then only for 45 minutes at a time.

Addi said the nurses did everything they could to empower them as parents and allow them to connect with their babies.

“With changing diapers and taking temperatures, the nurses want you to do it. If you’re there, they want you to do it, because it’s your child. But when you’re not there, they treat your child as their own,” said Addi.

On her first Mother’s Day, the nurses even surprised Addi with a Mother’s Day present – the girls’ handprints, with a poem.

 

Building a support system

Keith’s wedding ring is shown around the arm of Brynn.

Not only did the Mercer family receive top-notch care and support from the staff, they also discovered a support network in the other families there.

“Being in the old NICU, it was kind of an open room concept. You’re with other families, right next to their babies. They’re right next to your babies,” said Addi.

“You have those moments when you break down, and other people can be there to lift you up.”

The Mercers maintain friendships with families, nurses and doctors from their stay in the NICU to this day.

 

A lasting impact

At 9 years old, Brie and Brynn are your average kids – playing cards with their dad, teasing their younger brother, participating in basketball and soccer. Both favor math class in school. The only outward sign of their time in the NICU is a slight vocal cord paralysis that softens Brie’s voice, matching her more reserved personality.

“Miracle from above, we don’t really have any long standing effects from the prematurities,” said Addi.

But the Mercer family still recognizes the effect OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois had on their lives.

“A few years ago I started a nonprofit, and my goal was to give back to the hospital. Because they allowed us to have these two in the world today,” said Addi.

The third annual Mulligans for Miracles Golf Outing is scheduled for Aug. 12, 2017, at Arrowhead Golf Course in Edelstein, Ill. The event has raised $15,575 for the hospital in its first two years.

“We’re just lucky to have Children’s Hospital in our backyard here,” said Addi. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”