If you ask Hailey and Samantha about their favourite activities, expect a long list. Rock climbing, swimming, hiking, ice skating – it’s tough for the outgoing 10-year-old twins to narrow it down.
“Watching them find their passions in life is incredible,” says mom Sandy Thompson. “There are no limitations. They want to try something new and they follow through.”
The twins had an early start to life. At 27 weeks of pregnancy, Sandy began experiencing a placenta complication. The girls were born, with Hailey weighing one pound, 13 ounces and Samantha weighing two pounds, eight ounces. Both were given a breathing tube right away and admitted to Sunnybrook’s neonatal intensive care unit. Samantha was able to progress from that in a couple of weeks to a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine after a few weeks.
Hailey developed an infection and was diagnosed with two serious heart defects. Her condition improved without the need for surgery. Samantha left the hospital 12 weeks after birth, and Hailey came home with Sandy and her husband Steven 20 weeks after she was born.
The family also learned the twins would be moved from the hospital’s Women’s College site to Sunnybrook’s Bayview campus, which Sandy describes as “seamless…the staff made the transition so smooth…and the new facilities were absolutely amazing.”
While thankful both girls are now healthy and thriving, Sandy admits their first couple of years of life were a blur. “It’s incredibly busy. You need to learn everything about caring for babies born prematurely, as well as trying to understand how to navigate the health care system and also transitioning from the hospital to community-based care,” explains Sandy, who adds that between both girls there were five to seven medical appointments a week during their first two years of life.
If she were to change anything about the girls’ stay in the NICU, Sandy says she would have taken advantage of the supportive resources at the hospital. “From social workers, to parent coordinators, there are so many supports. I would encourage families with a baby or babies in the unit to use all available services. I think they would have made my time easier as a parent.”
Looking at the family now, as they’re smiling, laughing and planning their next big hike, it’s difficult to imagine the challenging start Hailey and Samantha had in life. They’ve opted for remote learning during the pandemic, and the twins are excited to get back to a routine as grade five students.
Sandy urges parents of babies born prematurely to take each day as it comes. “If it’s a hard day, try to just get through it and hope tomorrow will be a better day. If tomorrow isn’t a better day, just hope that the next day will be better. Don’t be scared of the future. There is so much good ahead.”