Iowa Family First Came to Cincinnati Children’s 12 Years Ago after Receiving Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) Diagnosis
At Gina DeHoogh’s eight-week ultrasound, she received the wonderful news that she was pregnant with twins.
Excitement, however, turned to concern when doctors told her 10 weeks later that her identical girls were not developing normally. Tests discovered that blood was flowing unevenly between the babies.
“The girls were sharing a placenta, with Baby A (Cambree) having way too much fluid and Baby B (Carly) having little to no fluid,” said Gina. “We were shocked and terrified, and had never heard of twin-twin transfusion syndrome before.”
After confirming the TTTS diagnosis, doctors in Sioux Falls, SD — where the twins were being treated at the time — suggested the family travel to Cincinnati Children’s Fetal Care Center for further evaluation and treatment as soon as possible.
Gina and her husband, Gered, were soon on a plane, flying from their home in northwest Iowa to Cincinnati Children’s so that the twins could be evaluated.
“The staff in Cincinnati had coordinated our care with the staff in Sioux Falls and everything was scheduled for us when we arrived,” said Gina. “The staff at the Fetal Care Center was just lovely, and we felt well informed and cared for at all times.”
As a first course of treatment, doctors in our Fetal Care Center tried an amniotic fluid reduction, but it was unsuccessful. After talking with their care team, Gina and Gered decided that surgery was the necessary next step to save their babies’ lives.
Gina was 20 weeks’ pregnant when doctors performed the selective fetoscopic laser photocoagulation (SFLP) surgery, a minimally invasive procedure in which lasers are used to equal out the blood share of the feeding vessels.
“TTTS is one of the most common diagnoses we see at the Fetal Care Center. We are fortunate to be able to offer treatment — the SFLP procedure — for this potentially fatal condition,” said Lisa Pickett, nurse coordinator.
Successful SFLP Procedure, Girls Thriving Years Later
Performed between 16 and 27 weeks into the pregnancy, the SFLP procedure stops the blood flow in the shared blood vessels between the identical twins. Then amniotic fluid is normalized (reduced in the larger twin), Pickett explained.
Since 2010, the Fetal Care Center has performed over 1,200 SFLP procedures, more than any other hospital in the nation.
“The procedure only requires a small incision to allow the fetoscope to pass through into the mother’s abdomen and uterus. Generally, after a follow-up appointment, mothers can return home for delivery,” said Pickett.
This was the case for the DeHooghs, who returned home to Iowa soon after the surgery. But before leaving Cincinnati, they confirmed the surgery’s success with a fetal ultrasound.
“The two heartbeats we saw the morning after our laser procedures were the most beautiful thing we’d ever seen,” said Gina.
Back home, Gina was placed on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. She still had regular doctor appointments, scans and prenatal care in Sioux Falls — until her water broke at 31 weeks.
“They were tiny and healthy,” said Gina, recalling the delivery. “We were just so relieved and thrilled to have two healthy babies. Cambree was 3 pounds, 10 ounces, and Carly was 3 pounds, 1 ounce.”
Both babies remained in the neonatal intensive care unit at their local hospital for the next four weeks before finally returning home.
“We are so thankful that we found out about our [babies’] complications early and there was a place to go for help,” said Gina when recalling their time at the Fetal Care Center.
“The knowledge of the doctors and the available technology at the Cincinnati Children’s Fetal Care Center are simply amazing and we are so thankful we were sent to such a wonderful facility. We will forever have a tender spot in our hearts for all who were involved in our care.”
Today, both sisters are happy and healthy thanks to the expert care they received in our Fetal Care Center.
They play softball, soccer, and will soon start volleyball. They love to be with their friends, play games, make jewelry, go on family outings, and take the family dog, Ranger, for walks. They love nature, including animals, bugs, rocks and exploring.
“Cambree and Carly are amazing, and the best of friends,” said Gina. “They just turned 12 and are going to be sixth-graders this fall. They are two of the happiest, healthiest, joy-filled kids ever.”