Giving back to the twins' first home
When Ritu and Raja Sandhu found out they were pregnant with twins in 2007, they were over-the-moon excited and looking forward to starting a family together. Following this exciting news, everything seemed to just fall into place. They were talking about baby names and dreaming about their twin’s future nursery, and they couldn’t have asked for an easier pregnancy. It was all happening so fast, yet they were about to be hit with reality a lot sooner than they expected when Ritu went into labor at 27 weeks.
Throughout her pregnancy, Ritu had been feeling hardly any discomfort, until one night she knew something felt different, but didn’t know what it was and figured she could sleep it off. However, when she woke up, the pain was still there and they decided to take a trip to the doctor’s office. Upon arrival, their doctor told them to immediately go to the hospital. Ritu was in labor, and the twins were coming fast! They rushed to Winnie Palmer Hospital and within a matter of 25 minutes, Ritu was giving birth to their first child, immediately followed by their second. Raja didn’t even get the chance to see his babies being born, since he was still being prepped to go into the delivery room. Ritu remembers learning she was in labor as one of the scariest moments in her life.
“I had never heard of someone going into labor so soon. My husband didn’t think the twins would make it. They were so tiny.”
Their baby girl, Ria, was born at 2 pounds and their son, Raja, 2.5 pounds, and both were immediately rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). For Ritu, the delivery was all a blur, but the moments following were crystal clear. The next 48 hours were critical. Among many complications, their daughter had a brain enlargement that could result in developmental issues, and their son was having a hard time with feeding.
“It was horrible seeing them in the incubators. It wasn’t until he was 2 weeks old that I could hold my son for the first time and 2 ½ weeks to hold my daughter. I just couldn’t get close enough to them. I couldn’t hear them cry or touch them; something that every new mom cherishes. The first time I was able to hold them and hear them cry was amazing. It was a moment that I could rejoice in, although I knew we still had a long road ahead of us.”
The Sandhu family spent 68 days in the NICU at Winnie Palmer Hospital. Three holidays- Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s- came and went as Ritu and Raja hoped each day they would be one more day closer to taking their twins home. A few days after New Year’s the twins were co-bedded, and their health improved rapidly. Ria began catching up to Raja, even though she had significantly more complications in the beginning.
Ritu especially remembers Dr. Palma and Dr. Alexander fondly. She felt they were always there when they needed them, were patient when they had so many questions, comforted them, and became part of their family. On January 26, 2008, the twins were finally healthy enough to head home, a day the Sandhu family thought they may never get to experience. The twins are now 4-years-old, healthy, and free of any complications they had as newborns. Just like any other normal kid, they are ready to take on the world.
As a way to say thank you and show how much they appreciate the staff at Winnie Palmer Hospital for saving their miracle babies, the Sandhu family has set a goal to do something special for them every year around the twin’s birthday in November. They have done everything from provide lunch to the 183 staff members on the NICU floor, to this past year, hosting a golf tournament to benefit the hospital. These special moments are a part of the twin’s birthday party, as they head to what they call, “hotel Winnie”, to celebrate with the many staff who have become part of their family.
It is more than a tradition, but a way for the family to stay connected to those who helped them through one of the most difficult, yet celebratory times in their lives.