Surgeons Help Twins Beat the Odds of Rare Condition Before Birth

Hailey and Brooke get the right care at the right time for twin-twin transfusion syndrome.

Christina and Judd Martin squeeze their three-year-old daughters, Hailey and Brooke, tight each night. This time, four years ago while 19 weeks pregnant with her twins, Christina learned that she had a 60 percent chance of bringing both of her babies home. They had developed twin-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS).

The condition causes the blood to flow unevenly to the babies from the placenta. One twin receives too little blood and the other receives too much. TTTS occurs in about one in 10 pregnancies where twins share a placenta.

Christina’s doctor in Louisville, Whitney Jamie, MD, at Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine, made the call to the Cincinnati Fetal Center when she noticed significant differences in the amount of amniotic fluid between the two fetuses. The next day, Christina was in Cincinnati for an MRI, ultrasound and echocardiogram to see if the twins were feeling the effects of TTTS.

They were. Brooke’s heart was performing poorly. Hailey was not able to move much in the womb with little amniotic fluid around her. The Cincinnati Fetal Center and University of Cincinnati Maternal-Fetal Medicine teams, recommended laser surgery to treat the condition.

During surgery the next day, Foong-Yen Lim, MD, and the Fetal Team were able to seal off all 14 connecting blood vessels on the surface of the placenta and fix the balance of blood flow to the fetuses.

“I felt at ease. I was truly in the best hands possible. The doctors and nurses were invested in doing everything possible to make sure that our girls survived. That meant the world,” said Christina. “They even took pictures in the womb for us of their hands and feet.”

Christina can still remember being wheeled to ultrasound the morning after surgery, hoping and praying that she would see two flickering heartbeats. After experiencing enough ultrasounds, Christina and her husband could tell right away their prayers were answered.

“I lost it. My husband and I were hysterically happy to see that they made it through the surgery. It was the first big hurdle.”

The twins showed improvement soon after surgery. Even the heart issue disappeared. Everything was looking up as Christina returned to Louisville for care at Norton’s throughout the rest of her pregnancy.

Christina gave birth on May 27, 2014, at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, to two healthy, tiny girls after being on modified bed rest for nearly three months. Hailey weighed 3 lbs., 3 oz. Brooke was 3 lbs., 6 oz. By 5-weeks-old, Christina was able to take her babies home.

The Martin family.

Today, Christina’s girly girls, as she calls them, are excelling in preschool and love to dance and terrorize their big, 5-year-old brother Luke. Hailey, who fought to survive without fluid, likes to make her presence known and never stops moving or talking, while her sister Brooke is a bit quieter and slower to act.

“Our kids are the best gifts we’ve ever been given. We relied on our faith and medical expertise to bring our twins into this world. I am forever grateful for the amazing science, medicine and experts that you have there, and I don’t take a second for granted because we were really close to not having them here,” said Christina. “Cincinnati Children’s is absolutely a world-class hospital, and we’re so thankful for that.”
Hailey and Brooke

Hailey and Brooke