In recognition of national Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (“TTTS”) day on December 10th, we are writing on behalf of the patients, the parents, the friends, and the families of the precious little ones whose lives have been saved by work of the Los Angeles Fetal Surgery team under Dr. Ramen Chmait. As we explain further below, the Los Angeles Fetal Surgery team urgently needs your help to continue their life-saving work. As one of Chmait’s former patients, and the proud mother of fifteen-month-old twins Theodore and Henry who underwent fetal surgery at 23 weeks to address TTTS, I want to share a little bit about my story to give you a window into the incredible work we are are asking you to support today.
As a fraternal twin married to an identical twin, I had hoped for twins since the day my husband Brian and I got married. As our doctor noted after we celebrated seeing two heartbeats on the monitor at our first ultrasound, “You are the happiest two people I have ever seen to have twins. Usually people cry and freak out when I break the news!” For us, however, it was an amazing day and we couldn’t have been happier! But we had no idea the journey that awaited us just a few months later.
Cut to twenty-three weeks gestation, when we received the news every parent of identical twins dreads: Theo and Henry were diagnosed with TTTS. “Jessie, we are so sorry to give you this news. We have already started sending all your paperwork to Dr. Ramen Chmait at USC. He is the best of the best, and we already have a call into him to see if he can take your case. Your babies have the best chance of survival in his hands,” said my doctor.
Dr. Chmait had performed almost 600 surgeries by the time we met with him the following week, and he spoke with confidence and gentleness as he explained the options. We were ready to proceed with the surgery to correct the TTTS, even though both twins faced a 70% chance of survival. It was never a question for us which way we could go; we wanted to try for life for both of the boys. As twins, we knew the beautiful gift of being twins, and the risk of possibly losing one or both of our boys made the whole situation that much more heartbreaking. But we knew that our boys’ lives were in Dr. Chmait’s hands and we trusted that if anyone could do what was necessary to save both of their lives, it was him.
After an anxious, sleepless night, my husband and I arrived early the next morning at the hospital. Dr. Chmait’s team welcomed us warmly and made sure I was comfortable and fully briefed about every aspect of the procedure. After saying a teary goodbye to my husband, I was wheeled into the darkened operating room and rolled over onto my side so I could watch the surgery on a large monitor placed near me. About an hour after the surgery began, Dr. Chmait announced he was checking his work and was almost done. The lights soon went on overhead, and I watched him walk around the operating table, and squat down so he could look me in the eyes. “You are healed!” he exclaimed. “You no longer have Twin-to-Twin-Transfusion Syndrome!” Tears of relief and joy rolled down my cheeks.
The day prior, his team told us that there were three big hurdles to overcome to before the surgery would be declared a success. First, they needed to hear two heartbeats immediately after the surgery. Second, they needed to hear two heartbeats twenty-four hours post-surgery. Third, the boys needed to heal well thirty days post-surgery. We had cleared the first hurdle as I was moved into the post-surgery hospital room. We settled in for the longest night of our lives, praying and hoping to hear once again those two perfect heartbeats the next morning.
At 9:30 a.m. the next morning, Dr. Chmait’s team arrived and set up the ultrasound monitor next to my bed. I reached for Brian’s hand with a death grip, and we waited for the news.
“Baby A has a heartbeat!” we heard as the ultrasound technician Katie waved her wand over my stomach. She then moved her device across my belly and quickly announced, “Baby B has a heartbeat, too!” We erupted in tears and shouts of joy. Soon, our family came in our room. We all wept and celebrated the gift of life given to us that morning. The boys later cleared the third hurdle (survival 30 days post-surgery), and were born two months post-surgery at five pounds each on July 8, 2016. They are now healthy, happy, and thriving fifteen month-olds. Not a day goes by that I don’t give thanks for Dr. Chmait and his team and our precious little boys whose lives he saved that day.
Our story is but one of the many that could be told of the miraculous work done on a weekly basis by Dr. Chmait and his team. In order for that lifesaving work to continue, Dr. Chmait needs your help. He needs additional resources to maintain the current level of care that he and his team provide and to facilitate the cutting edge research that offers the possibility of more lifesaving treatments via fetal surgery. On the right side of the page are various contribution options. Any contribution is greatly appreciated and no contribution is too small. As you consider all the ways to give back this holiday season, Brian and I hope you will give generously to support the continued work of the Los Angeles Fetal Surgery team.
Thank you for allowing us to share our story and thank you in advance for your generosity!
With gratitude for Team Chmait and the lives of our sons,
Jessie and Brian Fahy
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