July 26, 2019
Ashleigh and Brian Hipp couldn't wait to start a family. Like many first-time parents, they imagined an uneventful pregnancy, easy delivery and joyful homecoming. But their dreams were put on hold when Ashleigh began to experience pregnancy complications.
She was carrying twins and they were in grave danger. After an area physician referred the couple to an advanced fetal care physician at The University of Kansas Health System, Ashleigh was hospitalized and put on total bedrest at just 18 weeks.
"We really didn't know if our babies would survive," says Ashleigh. "Staying in bed for 6 weeks was difficult." Brian spent every night at the hospital, while family, friends and church members visited often. The odds of carrying their twins to full-term were very low, so each extra day counted as a victory.
At just 23 weeks and 6 days, Alexander and Andrew were born – each weighing a scant 1 lb., 3 oz., or just 1 oz. shy of the 20 oz. in a large coffee at Starbucks®. "My wedding band fit around each tiny arm like a bracelet," says Brian.
The doctors reassured us with patience, kindness and information. We trusted them to do everything they could – and they did. – Ashleigh Hipp
A long way to go
During the next 95 days, nurses, neonatologists, surgeons, feeding experts, occupational and respiratory therapists and many other professionals in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) worked together to give the boys a fighting chance.
"Almost every day, there was another complication," says Brian. Both boys suffered from patent ductus arteriosus, a common heart problem for premature babies, requiring cardiovascular surgery by Trip Zorn, MD. Alexander also experienced a spontaneous perforated colon, repaired by pediatric surgeon Kurt Schropp, MD.
"We wondered how someone so small could go through surgery," says Ashleigh. "The doctors reassured us with patience, kindness and information. We trusted them to do everything they could – and they did."
In fact, the Hipps praise the whole team. "The nurses and other experts were all great. We never worried when we went home to get some rest because we totally trusted the entire staff."
When Brian and Ashleigh walked out of the hospital with their 4-lb. boys, 1 had a heart monitor and 1 was on oxygen. After 3 months in the NICU, they were going home. "Believe it or not, it was hard to say goodbye!" says Ashleigh. "We felt so close to everyone, and we'll never forget all the people at The University of Kansas Health System who helped us."
The Hipp family celebrates a very special milestone.
Brian Hipp: I'm Brian Hipp, this is Ashleigh Hipp and our boys' names are Alexander and Andrew.
Ashleigh Hipp: I had a high risk pregnancy. It's a very scary situation because you don't know from day-to-day what will happen to the babies. Alexander and Andrew were born at 23 weeks and six days. So they were very, very early and they were each one pound, three announces. Look at them now, they're five years old. They're playing. They're having fun. They are healthy. We owe that to the University of Kansas Health System.
Continued care for 2 toddlers
The twins, now 2, are happy, healthy and weigh 18 lbs. Alexander loves to climb stairs while Andrew likes to comb his hair. "I look at them," says Brian, "and I know without a doubt how lucky we are that this hospital is in Kansas City."
To ensure their ongoing success, the boys will receive regular checkups at the health system's Neonatal Medical Home until they're 5. It's one of the first such care centers in the country designed to handle the various needs of preterm and at-risk newborns – all in 1 spot.
How appreciative is the new family? The Hipps contributed a generous estate gift to the NICU. "We have a lot of expenses right now, but we're trying to do whatever we can to help," says Brian with a smile.
Ashleigh agrees. "The way we feel about the doctors, nurses and staff goes beyond grateful. They saved our boys' lives."
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