Many of our friends and family have asked if we had or would be starting a GoFundMe for our family situation. We have had such a great support system of love and prayers, and we are so extremely thankful. We truly appreciate all of the prayers that have been said for our family and the girls’ health and we praise God for all the answered prayers so far!
In addition to prayers, we often get asked ‘How can I help’, ‘What can I do’, ‘What do you need’? Well, here it is. We are starting to realize how extensive and ongoing their care is and will continue to be. In addition to being away from home for so long, we have faced more travel, food, and medical expenses than we had anticipated.
Please donate if you can. Any little bit helps and it would be very appreciated.
Read the full story below:
The story begins in July of 2015. Andre and Angi met in a little sushi restaurant on July 4th and needless to say, there were FIREWORKS!! For the next three weeks they were inseparable. (This will prove rather symbolic later on) They spent every spare moment together for the next three weeks until Angi returned to Tennessee. She didn’t stay long before she had the Uhaul and her two kids loaded up, headed back to Florida to begin another fresh start in her home state.
Over the next few months, their love blossomed, and the couple decided to make it official. They couldn’t wait to spend the rest of their lives joined together as a family. The two declared their dedication to eachother in the presence of close friends and family, in the backyard of their first home.
Shortly after, they faced their first of many tests of their love in the manifestation of financial instability. Working together to overcome the mountain, they relied on their faith to get them through this trial and God blessed them. After just over a year of wedded bliss, they were both at stable and rewarding jobs. Happily a family of four, they started to talk about a baby.
Andre had always wanted kids and he was thrilled that Angi brought two very loved children into the marriage, but they wanted to have one more together to complete the puzzle. They started planning with doctor appointments, temperature checks, charting, and timing things just right. Then Hurricane Irma hit, and GUESS WHAT? HURRICANE BABY!!
They were overjoyed that their journey would start so soon!! They went to the doctor when Angi was just over 8 weeks pregnant. An ultrasound was used to confirm the pregnancy. Even after having two kids in the house, Andre was looking forward to experiencing a baby from the very beginning and joined Angi for the first appointment (and many more). They were sitting in the room all set up for the examination, anxiously anticipating seeing their little peanut. The ultrasound tech got started. She was going around and around Angi’s belly, looking from all different angles, scanning back and forth and back again. Then Andre and Angi look at each other in surprise ...
TWINS! There were TWO babies!! Angi was a little in shock and Andre was over the moon excited! After the initial speechlessness wore off, the doctor came in and voiced his initial concerns. This is where their journey changed directions in the blink of an eye.
The doctor had suspicions their little blessings were conjoined at the abdomen. They didn’t even know what to think, and were both terrified. He discussed all of the options, risks, statistics, and elective termination. The faithful couple said NO, that was not an option. God has chosen them to take care of these special little souls and termination was absolutely out of the question. They were very blessed with a fantastic doctor who 100% supported their decision, and was ready to walk with them through this unique journey.
Within the week, they were referred to a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) Specialist. As much as they loved their doctor, they were hoping he was wrong, that the tech was missing something, the scan was of poor quality, the technology just wasn’t advanced enough to give a good picture of the babies. However, this doctor saw the same thing; he concluded the same diagnosis.
This was hard.
They had so many questions swirling around in their heads. How are they going to care for these sweet babies? How do they feed them, find them clothes, get them home safe from the hospital? How will they be okay? It was a very hard day for them, but Andre was such a faithful and positive leader of his family. He knew God would get them through this and would take care of His babies.
A few weeks went by and they had another appointment at the MFM office to have another scan. The babies would be bigger then so they could confirm shared organs and plan the next steps. At this point, they were still in denial. They just knew they would experience a great miracle, the babies would be completely separate, the doctors were wrong, and to God be the glory!!
But they learned something that day. Their babies WERE miracles and they received the best news they could have ever dreamed of. Yes, their babies were conjoined and sharing a liver and intestines. But this was a great blessing. The babies could be separated, and live their lives virtually unaffected by this minor detail from their great beginning. And these babies are so special that God choose them for this unique journey and Andre and Angi to be responsible for their care while on this earth. What great trust God must have in them!
Conjoined twins are so rare, Andre and Angi really weren’t familiar with the condition so they started researching. And researching and researching. They discovered just how rare they really are. Let’s review a few things they learned. Conjoined twins occur one in every 200,000 pregnancies. Of those pregnancies, only about 40-60 percent survive to birth and only 35% live past their first day of life. Their girls were one in 5 percent of conjoined twins that make it and are healthy enough for separation surgery. After realizing the odds they were facing, the next step was to have some testing to make sure the babies were genetically strong enough to survive the pregnancy. This was a huge hurdle. This was the greatest and most important test they could take and the babies passed with flying colors! Praise God!
Over the next few months, they attended many appointments with fetal specialists, pediatric surgeons, hospital tours, and finally ended up at Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville - over 100 miles from home. There isn’t many places that can say they ‘specialize’ in conjoined twins but Shands has had quite a bit of experience in this area over the past few years. They were confident this was where God had led them to seek the proper care for their precious girls. They met with the doctors and came up with a plan to deliver the girls at Shands. Shortly after birth, they would be able to have all the necessary testing in order to prepare for the separation surgery.
Fast forward to Mother’s Day this year and the girls decided it was almost time to make their grand appearance. With contractions starting and being two hours away from the specialists that knew their little miracles, they grabbed their bags, got in the car, and headed North. Fortunately, they were just two days shy of the big planned delivery so they were able to stall the progress and keep the girls from making their grand entrance until the rest of the team was ready.
May 15th, 2018 – their lives changed forever. Remi Lee Christina and Jesi Robyn Andrea joined their world. These beautiful babies were born at 9:55am and their parents melted at the sound of their cries. Mom and Dad got to see their beautiful faces before they were whisked away to the NICU to get settled. While mom was recovering, dad made a visit to see the girls in their new temporary home. Unfortunately, it has become a lot less temporary than expected. Eleven weeks later and Gainesville continues to be ‘home for now’.
When their journey was first beginning, they were expecting to stay in the hospital for about a month to make sure all the girls’ parts were working as they should. Once the doctors were satisfied, they would continue growing and getting stronger at home, then return for surgery around three months old. As the first month was coming to a close, it was obvious the girls would remain in the hospital, patiently waiting for their separation. With all the preparation procedures and the complications that came along with them, surrounded by nurses and doctors was the safest place to be until their BIG surgery.
Their big day came on July 23rd, 2018 at 8am. Andre and Angi got to the hospital around 6 am to spend some time with the girls before they were taken down to the surgical floor. That morning was one of the hardest yet. Sending your precious little 10 week old babies off to have a major surgery that is so uncommon that the doctors cannot solidify what the outcome or recovery will look like until it is over is heartbreaking. And the wait! Waiting for the surgery to start, waiting for the first update, waiting for the final word that one has become two. Even though they were surrounded by loved ones, being preoccupied with activities and conversation, the wait was long.
Then, they got the call. They had TWO HEALTHY BABIES! What a relief it was to know the surgery was going well and they were able to successfully separate the liver and the intestines for each girl. The next step was the closing of the incisions. This was the tricky part and even though the girls had went through weeks of uncomfortable skin expansions, which caused many issues in itself, there was too much swelling and not enough skin to cover their wounds. This meant the girls would require a second surgery once the swelling went down. This would mean Andre and Angi would have to send their girls back to the operating room once again the following week.
And this is where they are now, waiting again. Waiting to hopefully have another successful surgery, but not knowing the conclusive outcome. The surgeons are hoping the wounds can be closed using the skin the girls worked so hard to grow. If not, there is a plan B, and C, and D. But they are optimistic they will be able to close. Andre and Angi are praying they will finally get to hold their little bundles of joy and hopefully bring them home soon.
Over the last year, these parents had done their best to plan and prepare and set financial goals to address their needs while meeting the needs of their growing family, but there were many factors they didn’t account for. They knew they needed more room in their house, but with two special needs babies, they also knew remodeling was unrealistic. They ended up putting their house on the market and buying a bigger, and more expensive, house down the street. They knew they would need a new car as their tiny compact would not fit their new sized family so they planned on buying a mini van. However, they didn’t plan on their second car, and Andre’s main means of transportation for work, to fail right in the middle of all these other things going on. They planned to meet their deductible this year but not for all the unexpected medical, travel, and food expenses while waiting for the babies to grow. They planned on one big surgery for the girls but didn’t expect there to be a pre-surgery surgery and a post-surgery surgery (or several). They knew their girls would need special care but they didn’t plan on how extensive that care would be or how long it will last. The fact is, this family will have a long road ahead with future surgeries over the next several years.
Again, thank you for all the prayers! God Bless!!