Kids’ Medical Miracles: An Early Arrival

Getting pregnant wasn’t easy for now 36-year-old Charlotte Wilhelm, a civilian management analyst at Langley Air Force Base. She and her husband, Steve, who is in the Navy, relied on Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and in vitro fertilization to help them. In early 2014, they received the good news: They were expecting—and in a big way. Two babies would be born, probably sometime in February 2015.

Charlotte saw the doctors at Virginia Beach Obstetrics and Gynecology regularly and took good care of herself.

Her pregnancy proceeded normally until a few months before her babies’ due date. Charlotte was 23 weeks into her pregnancy, and she had an echocardiogram on her babies. The boy she called “Baby B” wasn’t interested in being seen. He wouldn’t allow the technician to get a good look at his heart.

So three weeks later, as Charlotte reached 26 weeks, she thought a doctor might express some concerns when she visited Sentara Eastern Virginia Medical School Fetal Care Center.

Could Baby B stay still for the technician? Would he show a problem now?

Charlotte’s gut was close to being right: At the Fetal Care Center, she learned that Baby B’s heart was functioning properly, but she couldn’t yet let out a sigh of relief. Both babies faced a different challenge: The doctor noticed an issue with the blood flow to Charlotte’s placenta.

“They told us to go to Sentara Princess Anne Hospital for additional monitoring immediately. We thought we’d go home the next day,” Charlotte says of herself and Steve. “We figured, ‘just an overnight stay to take another look and be cautious.’”

Within 24 hours, Charlotte delivered her babies.

Hours before an emergency C-section became necessary, “Baby B” showed signs of distress, and “Baby A” struggled with a dropping heart rate.

Charlotte and Steve were frightened. They had tracked their babies’ progress on a website and knew the developmental stages they were supposed to meet. At 26 weeks old, the babies hadn’t grown enough.

“The nurses saw that we were scared and anxious,” Charlotte says. “They took time to talk with us. They told us about everything.”

The mom-to-be was most grateful for a simple gesture: “They comforted me when I needed to cry.”

The nurses reassured her as the C-section began with Dr. Andrea Nugent, explaining the next step and when to expect it.

Richard, first known as “Baby B,” was only 1 pound, 5 ounces when he arrived. John, “Baby A,” was 1 pound, 14 ounces. They stayed in the hospital for almost four months.

Charlotte had to stay in the hospital for only three days. She visited her boys every day, almost the whole day, keeping up with some work as best she could.

early arrival twins

“I visited a lot, but I felt comfortable when I wasn’t there,” she says. Many nurses and doctors cared for the boys, all getting to know their moods and what was “normal” for them. Charlotte particularly remembers Dr. Ronald Sallas as “wonderful” in the neonatal intensive care unit.  

Charlotte remembers worrying when Richard was transferred briefly to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters for a surgery on his eye.

“It was just that the hospital had been his home,” she says. “Everything was fine, though. The surgery and care were very good at CHKD.”

Baby John came home a few weeks before Richard and was quickly seen at Sentara Pediatric Physicians.

Within a few days of John’s first office check-up, Richard was home, too.  In the early summer, the boys’ weight was on track for preemies, about 15 pounds each.

“Dr. Melissa Lexier is comfortable that they’re growing as they should,” says Charlotte. “They’re not on ‘the chart’ yet, but they’re growing at their own pace. They’re doing fine.”

Read this article in full in the August/September issue of Coastal Virginia Magazine.

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