Family of Preemie Twins Says Thanks
In what has to be the happiest ending imaginable to a trying and sometimes scary story, Landon and Walker Wells (along with mom and dad Kristi and Jason Wells) stopped by Riverside Regional’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in July for a belated first birthday party with the team of caregivers that watched over the premature twins for the first 47 days of their lives.
The party also celebrated a generous gift of $20,000 from Kristi and Jason through the Walker Family Trust, which was established by Kristi’s parents to encourage their four children to find where their heart leads them to make contributions. The donation was drawn from a family charitable trust fund and will be used to purchase and install a NICView camera system that will allow parents and families to watch their newborns via any internet connection.
“We were all so appreciative of the care and love we received from the NICU staff during a very difficult time that we wanted to give something back, and especially something that would make it a little easier for other families with premature babies in Intensive Care.”
Kristi and Jason’s story began in January of 2011 when the couple moved back to Newport News from Pensacola, Fl. A Navy pilot, Jason had been assigned to a Norfolk-based aircraft carrier, the USS Eisenhower, for a three-year tour. They moved into a house they owned from a previous stay in the area; Kristi was expecting, but wasn’t due to deliver until April. Everything seemed to be going along fine.
Then, on February 4, Kristi suddenly went into labor. “I was petrified,” she says. “It was the last thing in the world I had expected.” Assurances from doctors and nurses that she was going to be fine allayed her fears. “I remember Joel, an RN on duty, introducing himself and talking to me about what to expect in case of a premature birth. As he was talking, I was thinking ‘thank you for the information, but I won’t be seeing you again for a long time.’ How wrong I was.” She delivered the twins on February 5, two and a half months early. The next time she saw Joel was a week later — he was caring for her newborn boys.
“We were really fortunate that the boys were in good health for being born so early, no major medical problems. And we had the whole NICU team taking care of us,” Kristi says. “Plus I have a large, close-knit family and good friends to give added support. In fact, they started arriving in droves the day we checked out of the hospital.”
A couple of weeks after Landon and Walker were born, Kristi found out how truly welcome that help and support was going to be. Jason was still on leave and hadn’t checked in since Kristi went into labor. When he did toward the end of February, he received shocking news. He was being reassigned: to a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan. Through a program called Individual Augmentation, Jason was being shifted to support a shortage of Army officers. He was to leave for his new assignment in May.
“Jason just kind of drew the short straw,” explains Kristi, “there was nothing to be done about it.”
“Everybody rallied around to help any way they could. The NICU team not only took care of the boys, they also took care of Jason and me as well. They became a part of our family. We’ll be forever grateful.”
The primary goal (after the children’s health and safety) was to give Jason as much time with his sons as possible before he had to leave for Afghanistan. The NICU team did everything they possibly could to maximize the time he and Kristi could be with the twins. “We spent hours with the boys. Jason would read to them, which would prove invaluable later on,” says Kristi.
In May, Jason left for Afghanistan. But because he had been able to establish a bond with the twins at the hospital and at home before he left — and through the miracle of modern technology — he was able to be with them in a very real sense from 10,000 miles away. He saw them regularly, even read them stories via Skype. Kristi says the twins were able to recognize their father’s voice through the internet connection thanks to the early contact in NICU. “Jason actually saw Landon’s first crawl. Landon crawled to the computer on the floor when he saw his father on Skype. And he heard the first time one of them said ‘daddy’ on Skype. It was so wonderful that we were able to be a family across such a great distance.” Jason saw his sons in person last Christmas, and then finished up his tour in late April of this year. Today, Daddy’s home, and the twins are growing fast; almost too fast, according to Kristi.
“Try carrying 50 pounds of really active boys around.”