These Miracle Twins Have Kept the World in Suspense for Weeks
It was the hug heard round the world, often called “the hug that changed medicine.” The endearing photo of miracle twins has proliferated across the internet; most people have seen the two tiny twins, one’s stick-thin arm wrapped lovingly around the other in a comforting embrace. If you haven’t heard the story behind the !ntimate moment, be assured it is just as heartwarming as the immortalized moment of familial love.
The twins’ epic journey begins on October 17, 1995. At 12 weeks premature, the tiny babies, Kyrie and Brielle Jackson, weighed just over 2 pounds each. Doctors were not optimistic about their survival. At that time, standard procedure at The Medical Center of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, where the twins were born, was to house them in separate incubators. This was typical across hospitals in the United States, a practice meant to cut down on cross-infection.
It quickly became apparent, however, that only one twin was thriving. Kyrie, who weighed a minuscule 2 pounds 3 ounces, began to put on weight and was developing well. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum was her sister: Brielle gained very little weight, suffered from heart rate and breathing problems, and had consistently low oxygen levels. She spent much of her time crying until she was blue-faced and gasping. Her parents, Heidi and Paul Jackson, were warned that her chances of survival were slim.
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On November 12, Brielle had what might have been her worst day. Her parents looked on in horror as she screamed, inconsolable, her teeny body taking on a bluish-gray hue as her chest heaved in a futile effort to get air. Registered nurse Gayle Kasparian ran through every option she could think of to soothe the fast-fading baby: she held her, she had her father hold her, she swaddled her, she suctioned her nose. All with no effect.
Convinced their child was about to die, the Jacksons gave Kasparian the go-ahead to try something popular in Europe that had yet to gain hold in America. Bucking hospital guidelines and putting her job on the line, Kasparian put Brielle in the incubator with her sister.
Basically as soon as the door shut, Brielle was calming down. Brielle snuggled up to Kyrie, resulting in a near miraculous complete reversal of her condition. Wrapped in her sister’s tender embrace, Brielle’s blood oxygen levels rose, her heart rate became stable, and her temperature normalized.
That day marked a huge change in how doctors and nurses treat premature twins and triplets. Where it was once thought that it was most important to minimize the risk of infection, now doctors understand the huge benefits that come with skin-to-skin contact. Many babies since the Jackson twins have prospered as a direct result of this simple “double bedding” technique.
Since then, similar techniques have grown in popularity. One of these, dubbed “kangaroo care”, is built on the same principle: that skin to skin contact is remarkably beneficial for newborns. The practice is so dubbed because of its similarity to how the marsupials care for their young. It involves holding the baby, typically clothed in just a diaper, against the bare chest of their parent for as many hours as feasible. It’s been shown to offer such benefits as improved breathing rate, higher blood oxygen saturation, deeper sleep, and quicker weight gain.
Today, the Jackson miracle twins are happy and healthy college students. They say they are each other’s best friends and, like typical young adults, they’re still subject to gentle ribbing from their father.
“We’ve joked with the girls that their 15 minutes of fame came when they were a week old,” Paul Jackson said. “They blew it.”