Premature twins able to go home after spending 138 days in NICU

The youngest surviving premature twins born at the Cleveland Clinic are making strides after...
The youngest surviving premature twins born at the Cleveland Clinic are making strides after spending 138 days in the neonatal intensive care unit.(Cleveland Clinic/LOCAL NEWS X /TMX)
Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 12:57 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLEVELAND (Gray News/TMX) - Premature twins are making strides after spending more than 100 days in intensive care at the hospital.

Kimberly Thomas, the twins’ mother, says her babies are complete opposites when it comes to their personalities.

Kimyah is independent, while DJ loves being held. But resiliency is one of the traits they share.

“How did they manage to get through what they did? That’s what I think to myself every day,” Thomas said.

At 22 weeks, Kimyah and DJ Jackson became the youngest surviving premature twins born at the Cleveland Clinic.

Kimyah weighed 12 ounces, and DJ weighed 15 ounces. They spent more than four months in the neonatal intensive care unit at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital.

Thomas said she knew something was wrong at first when she started leaking amniotic fluid. She called her doctor and was taken to the hospital.

At 22 weeks, there was only a 10-20% chance the twins would survive, and developmental delays were possible and uncertain.

“We closely work with the families in these situations. Kimberly wanted us to do everything we could for her twins,” said Firas Saker, Cleveland Clinic medical director.

After Thomas delivered her twins, they were quickly taken to the NICU. She said it was hard to process just how small they were.

“I saw Kimyah for a split second before she was taken to the NICU, and I just remember thinking, ‘No, she’s too small. She’s too small,’” Thomas said.

The nurses recall the twins being able to fit in the palm of their hands and even the smallest diapers were too large for them.

“These were the smallest babies I had ever seen, much less taken care of. I had to learn how to adapt to their size while caring for them. It was quite challenging,” said nurse Sara Perrin.

After her twins were born, Thomas spent her time with them but couldn’t hold them for a month because of how fragile their skin was.

“I would go into the NICU just to talk to my babies. I don’t think there was one day I didn’t spend at least a few minutes with them. I pretty much lived at the NICU,” Thomas said.

While in the NICU, DJ had a lung collapse and Kimyah suffered from a minor brain bleed.

Thomas compared the twin’s hospital stay to a rollercoaster with many ups and downs. However, she made sure to recognize their progress.

“We celebrated every milestone with them while they were in the hospital,” Thomas said.

Kimyah and DJ spent their first Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day in the NICU. But after 138 days, they were ready to go home for the first time.

On the day of their discharge, Kimyah and DJ’s care team came together to hold a graduation ceremony.

As the family made their way out of the hospital, the halls were lined with cheering caregivers who had bonded with the twins over the months they were there.

“So many of their doctors and nurses showed up. Even though this is their job, a lot of them built a connection with Kimyah and DJ,” Thomas said.

Doctors said the twins are progressing well, catching up when it comes to their weight and height and developing their lungs.

“We have a great team that’s been able to make a tremendous amount of progress,” Saker said.

Now out of the NICU, Thomas said she simply enjoys being able to hold Kimyah and DJ whenever she wants as the family continues to celebrate each new milestone.

“Kimyah and DJ are very active and love exploring. Thinking about everything they’ve been through; it was hard to imagine us ever getting to this point,” Thomas said. “You have to stay positive and focus on the outcome you want.”

Saker added, “It’s amazing to see the twins thriving. It serves as a reminder to all of us here why we do what we do.”