BRIDGEVILLE – Having an abscessed tooth is rarely considered a positive condition, but this dental problem caused Lauren Lawton, 23, to go into the premature labor that ultimately saved the lives of her identical twin daughters, Mackenzie and Anna.
Seven weeks after Lauren and her fiancé, Ryan Lloyd, 21, of Bridgeville, found out they were expecting twin daughters, they received devastating news. Doctors informed them the girls suffered from a condition known as Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. In most cases where the syndrome presents itself prior to 20 weeks of pregnancy, one or both twins do not survive.
“They told us don’t look it up and don’t read anything about it because it will only terrify us,” Lloyd said.
His father, Greene County detective Dave Lloyd, found that advice impossible to follow. Lloyd said he wanted to know everything he could in the hopes there were other treatment options available for his granddaughters. However, little is known about TTTS and what is available on the Internet “really is terrifying,” he said.
“They were telling them (Lauren and Ryan) that Anna wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t help myself. I told Ryan to stay off the Internet and I began reading everything I could about it. I’d never even heard of it,” Dave Lloyd said.
TTTS is relatively rare as it only occurs in about one in 1,000 cases of multiples. The syndrome is a complication of having a shared placenta. The twins’ blood supply is transfused through connecting blood vessels in the placenta creating a donor and recipient type situation where the blood is transfused from one baby to the other in utero. Basically, one twin receives too little blood and the other too much. The results can range from organ failure for the donor twin because of inadequate blood flow or heart failure for the recipient twin who has to process abnormally large volumes of blood.
Ryan Lloyd recalled the day Lawton went into labor.
“She was having chills and sweats. They said it was because of the abscessed tooth and they needed to do something before it infected the babies,” Lloyd said. “We knew about the tooth but didn’t think that would become a problem.”
In fact, the tooth is being credited with helping to save the lives of the twins. By being born early, the effects of the syndrome did not have an opportunity to fully develop.
The girls were definitely not where doctors at West Penn Hospital wanted them to be for delivery, but they were able to delay their births as long as possible.
Lawton began to receive steroid shots to try to improve their lung function. She received magnesium to speed up brain development. Everything medically possible was done to improve the girls’ chances.
“On the first day of the 24th week they did a C-section,” Lloyd said.
The only thing Lawton remembers of that day was the grim prognosis she kept hearing.
“There was one woman who came into the room and asked if I really wanted to go through a major surgery knowing they might not survive anyway,” Lauren said.
Lloyd said it took everything to control himself.
“It was a no-brainer. These are our kids. Of course, we are going to do everything we can for our kids,” he said.
“That was so brutal,” Dave Lloyd said. “You can’t sugar coat everything but with parents that young you can give them a little bit of hope.”
With Lawton under heavy sedation, it was Ryan Lloyd who saw the girls being born.
“I heard one cry and then the other and just thought, ‘OK, they are both alive,’” he said. “Then they quickly put them in what looked like little sandwich baggies that went up to their necks to keep them warm and they whisked them away. They were the size of my hand.”
Anna and Mackenzie were kept in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for 3 ½ months. Lloyd and Lawton made the hour-long drive nearly every day.
“We couldn’t go if either one of us was sick. They had no immune system whatsoever. We had to sanitize up to our elbows every time we came into the room,” he said.
It was a full month before Lloyd held either of his daughters.
“It was terrible. I wanted to hold them so badly after they were born. They were both on ventilators and they had to stay in incubators. I got to hold Mackenzie through the incubator in my hand while a nurse changed her diaper,” Lloyd said. “She was 1 pound and 11 ounces at birth. Anna was 1 pound and 6 ounces.”
Dave Lloyd said it was a very emotional experience for his son to hold one of the babies the first time.
“I watched him grow up pretty quickly into a dad and really step up in that role,” he said.
Anna and Mackenzie came home a day after Thanksgiving. Their original due date was March 17. The girls today weigh 11 pounds, 15 ounces and 12 pounds, 12 ounces, respectively. Both are doing well, despite everything they endured. Mackenzie, who is further along developmentally, rolled over on Father’s Day for the first time.
“The doctors appointments are becoming fewer. Instead of, ‘We want to see you again in two weeks,’ it is now, ‘We will see you in six months,’” Ryan Lloyd said. “They both are doing occupational and physical therapy to push them to be at the stage they would be if they were born on their due dates.”
Lloyd, an identical twin himself, said his parents always told him and his brother they would be good dads one day.
“I figured I was ready and then they said it was going to be two (babies). I thought, ‘Ok, I can handle this.’ Then they threw the ultimate curveball at me. When they said it was two girls I thought, ‘I don’t know anything about little girls,’” he said, laughing. “The Lloyd family is full of boys, and that whole dating thing – it’s never happening.”