When the Tweed triplets were born prematurely, the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Altru offered life-saving care and support.
About 90 miles southeast of Grand Forks, North Dakota between Tolna and Hamar is where Brady and Cassie Tweed call home. In the summertime, the tiny town of Hamar is engulfed in bright green grasses and tall swaying trees. Brady, a local rancher and farmer, and Cassie, a registered nurse at CHI St. Alexius Health–Carrington, feel most comfortable in their farmhouse with their dog, Sheyenne, surrounded by a bunch of farm cats and cows.
The Tweeds knew they were ready to add a baby to this loving brood, but an early pregnancy tragically ended in miscarriage. Collette Lessard, MD, an OB/GYN at Altru, played an important role in the Tweeds’ healing.
“We first met Dr. Lessard after our miscarriage, and she was right there sharing in our grief,” Cassie says. “We walked out of the clinic that day and both agreed we’d choose Altru for future care.”
Seven months after that appointment, the Tweeds returned to Dr. Lessard’s office. This time, they were expecting triplets.
Support Through a High-Risk Pregnancy
The Tweeds were excited and scared when they learned they had triplets on the way.
“We felt every emotion you can think of,” Cassie says. “We were thrilled to be pregnant but also downright terrified because the pregnancy was very high risk.”
The Tweeds soon realized their personal support system and the staff at Altru would carry them through.
“We had amazing experiences throughout the facility,” Cassie says. “Each appointment helped us prepare for what to expect during pregnancy and delivery.”
Durga Panda, MD, a neonatologist at the Altru Family Birthing Center and NICU, provided a guided tour of the NICU facilities to further ease the Tweeds’ stress as their due date steadily approached.
An Unexpected Due Date
Despite the high-risk pregnancy, the Tweeds felt reassured they could make it to their gestational goal of 36 weeks. Yet at a routine growth scan, providers noticed one of the babies was experiencing intrauterine growth restrictions. Essentially, the third triplet was running out of room and no longer growing at the rate of his brothers. This prompted the Altru team to schedule Cassie for cesarean delivery at 33 weeks and six days. Their boys would be born prematurely. With Dr. Lessard out of town during the unexpected delivery, the Tweeds spent an anxious night in a hotel before arriving for Cassie’s C-section. The morning felt like a blur as Cassie was prepped for surgery and ushered into the operating room.
As she walked into the room, Cassie admits she felt emotional. Labor and delivery nurse Tricia Buckalew, RN, began to relax Cassie through a set of calming exercises.
“I remember trying to arch my back during my spinal block, despite my belly being the size of a beach ball, and I’m pretty sure at one point I was praying out loud,” Cassie says. “Yet Tricia and the rest of the nurses constantly reassured me, making a very stressful situation tolerable.”
Alongside Tricia was David Nuelle, CRNA, who relaxed the new mom and father-to-be in preparation for the arrival of their boys. And arrive they did! Stetson, Judd and Knox Tweed were born at 8:09 a.m. Their parents finally released the breath they’d been holding for 34 weeks.
Finding the Sunshine Home
The premature Tweed triplets required an immediate stay in the Altru NICU where they received occupational and respiratory therapy.
“The NICU staff explained what was going on at every stage,” Cassie says. “I understand nobody wants to have their child in the NICU, but we have so many positives from our boys’ stay there. The nurses are literal angels.”
Stetson remained in the NICU for three weeks, while his brothers Judd and Knox were there for four. During the boys’ stay, Cassie’s sister, Courtney Caron, manager of case management at Altru, told them about the Sunshine Hospitality Home. The Sunshine Hospitality Home is a comfortable temporary home available for Altru patients and their families undergoing long-term medical care.
“We would have been paying for an uncomfortable hotel room,” Cassie says. “At the Home, we used the kitchen for homecooked meals, and it was so humbling to see all the items community members donated for us to use.”
The Journey Home
When it came time for the Tweeds to take their sons home, they had mixed emotions.
“The NICU staff were extremely compassionate during some impossible situations,” Cassie says. “They have your babies’ best interest at heart and cheer them along at all of their milestones.”
The boys have recently begun early intervention services and receive follow-up care with Dr. Panda. Along with regular pediatric appointments, the boys are doing well. (The Tweeds kept the boys on the schedule the NICU initiated, and they are now sleeping through the night!) Back home at their farmhouse, the entire Tweed family experienced some of their greatest joy. After a month of staying at Grand Forks, the day they returned home Cassie took a short walk down their gravel road and soaked in the beautiful sights of their countryside.
“I thanked God for blessing us with three healthy, strong boys,” she says. As for their hopes for the future, the couple states, “All we want is for our boys to grow to be good and kind to their core people. Those kids that elders look at and say, ‘Those Tweed boys sure are good kids.’ And thanks to the care provided at Altru Health System, we have that opportunity.”