Having a baby is one of the most exciting times in life.
We spend months looking forward to bringing home our little bundles of joy, but sometimes, for various reasons, babies are born too soon, and that can lead to a lifetime of hardship for them and their families.
I talked to a South Bend mom who shared her story about her special twins, who have survived against the odds.
Sadly, our neonatal units are filled with babies who come into life much to soon, spending much of their little lives hooked up to tubes and respirators.
To look at seven-year-old twins, Kendall and Kennedy Blount today, they look like most little girls, except for Kendall's cap hiding her new patch of hair growing in since finishing up chemotherapy.
Nicole went into premature labor at 23 weeks and just a week later, after her babies were born, she was told they had a 5 percent chance of living.
Nicole says, "At 24 weeks, they could have had severe brain bleeds, mental retardation, paralyzation, lung issues."
They spent four and a half months in Memorial's Neonatal Unit and went home with a host of problems, including severe lung issues
"After three days, they had blood transfusions. They had to close off a major valve to their heart. They had laser surgery on both of their eyes."
They came home on oxygen machines 24/7, and while some of their health problems improved, others became worse.
Kennedy has asthma and the tell tale signs of a raspy voice, caused by being intubated for so long.
However, Kendall had a much more serious issue. The day after the twins first birthday, they found out she had sickle cell disease.
"It became prominent in her back to the point where she couldn't walk, she had to be carried, she didn't want to be touched."
Just over a year ago, Kendall had a massive stroke, losing most of her mobility. Both mom and Kennedy were checked as possible bone marrow donors.
"Her sister came back as a perfect match."
For Kendall, it meant weeks in bed and then months in rehab, learning to write and speak, learning to walk and dance again to Justin Bieber's music.
“She became a Bieber fan when she was in the hospital."
Riley Children's Hospital donated an iPad, which she proudly filled with many pictures of Justin and video that shows just how important he was in her physical therapy.
After weeks of therapy, Kendall rallied and is now being home schooled until her immune system is back to normal.
In spite of all they've been through, Nicole says life is good.
"We've been blessed to come out on the positive…just living with prematurity, my heart goes out to the families that lose their children from being preemies. She no longer has sickle cell disease. She just now carries the trait, so she is now officially her sister".
Kennedy admits she does not share her twins love for Justin Bieber , but gave Kendall her life-saving bone marrow and got just as excited as Kendall when a friend showed up with a special gift for Kendall.
These twins are showing blood is truly thicker than water, or someone else’s' taste in music.
Kendall's next big dream is seeing Justin Bieber in concert for her birthday. She wants him to know how much he helped her recovery.
In the meantime, Nicole gives back by working with the March of Dimes and the Minority Health Coalition which, along with her sorority, kicked off a Stork's Nest program for minority mothers in South Bend's Marycrest building.
They offer a host of programs for expectant moms and offer incentives like cribs and car seats.
For more information on the Stork’s Nest Initiative, click here.
For more information on the St. Joseph County Minority Health Coalition, click here.
For more information on Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, click here.