It was midnight on January 18, 2014 when Zachary Edward and Jackson Carter came into the world quite unexpectedly: two tiny babies born seven weeks premature; small enough to fit into the palm of an outstretched hand. At three and a half pounds and three pounds, eight ounces, Zachary and Jackson were welcomed by parents Sarah Bootsman and Shane Gomache at the Stettler Hospital and quickly whisked off to Red Deer Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit for more comprehensive care.
For the new parents, who hadn’t had any indication that the twins would be born premature, the experience was unnerving from the onset.
“My initial reaction was panic. The whole thing kind of came as a shocker,” said Gomache. “It was definitely not expected.”
For the delivery, both Dr. Elizma Bouwer and Dr. Philip Vogel of Stettler were called in to assist. Dr. Bouwer managed the first delivery while Dr. Vogel prepared for recitation efforts if necessary.
“We tried to contact more of our colleagues, because obviously if the one [baby] gives us issues the other one that was going to be born shortly after will need attention as well,” said Dr. Vogel, noting that despite two physicians being absent that night one extra physician was able to assist. The first delivery, handled by Dr. Bouwer, was normal; the second baby was a bit more difficult to manage.
“The second baby was malpositioned, so in other words we couldn’t go for a normal delivery on the second one,” Dr. Vogel noted. “[Bootsman] was taken to the OR and I performed the Caesarian section on the second baby. So she had a double whammy of a normal delivery as well as a Caesarian section.”
Dr. Vogel noted that both babies did very well after delivery but given the nature of the premature births and the facilities of the rural Stettler hospital, two STARS medical teams were called to fly the twins to Red Deer to get them into incubators as soon as possible.
“They have very specialized incubators, and they have a team that deals with one baby,” notes Dr. Vogel. “They have a specialized kit they take with them, so I think it was just a matter of logistics for them to send two fixed wing helicopters.”
As the babies were being sent out with STARS, Bootsman and Gomache began to absorb the reality of their next steps.
“It was scary knowing that’s where we had to go,” says Bootsman of the hospital move so soon after giving birth. Both parents note that the response by paramedics and the air ambulance team was prompt and instilled confidence that the babies were in good hands.
“Two teams of medics came out from Edmonton with two fixed-wing [STARS] aircraft within an hour,” said Bootsman. “The babies were born at midnight, I was in Red Deer by 4 a.m., and the medics weren’t far behind. Within five hours the plane came from Edmonton, to Stettler, to Red Deer.”
It would be around 12 more hours until the parents were able to view their children again and the sight of their babies in incubators was a tough sight to behold.
“It was a little scary initially ‘cause there were so many wires. It was a lot to take in that’s for sure,” says Bootsman.
Luckily for Bootsman, Gomache and two year old daughter Heidi, the boys have been gaining weight steadily since arriving at Red Deer. Their temperature has remained stable and they came out of the incubator on January 31, two days before the Review interview.
“Hopefully in two to three weeks we get them home,” said Bootsman. “It’s going to be a lot different because right now we’re halfway in-between as we have them but not with us all the time.” The couple note it will be a relief to get the twins home safe and sound, to continue on with some sense of normalcy.
“We can’t wait to get them home, get back to a schedule and eat normally instead of fast food every day,” Bootsman said.