This is just an incredible tale, and even more so because I know the person who this is about. And even more special is my great friend, who herself is blessed with twins, sent this over. After you read this, I dare you to say there isn't a higher power out there, you just have to have the grace to look.
Jennifer Dobbs, Managing Editor
Posted: 01/26/2009 08:32:44 AM PST
Identical twin girls Lily Mae and Ivy Jean came into the world at 7:59 and 8 a.m. Jan. 5. at Redlands Community Hospital. They weighed just about 6 pounds each, give or take a few ounces.
Mom Gabrielle Symmes, 38, said it was an unplanned pregnancy - as many events of that year turned out to be. Along with the birth of these twins, 18 years after the birth of her son, Zach, came the unplanned miracle that may save her life.
I first heard this story from the twins' grandma, Mae Smith, who is herself a writer and works at a newspaper in Adams County, Idaho. She sent me a note addressed "to the grandma of one Lily from another." Attached was a photograph of twin brunette baby girls and a copy of a column she wrote for her newspaper.
She told the story of her daughter Gabrielle, known to most as Gabby, who lives in Redlands and worked until 2006 in marketing at ESRI.
That is the year she and husband Mike decided, because they had no plans to have any more children, she could take off a couple of years to be a stay-at-home mom to Zach, because it would be her only chance to have that experience.
She was having fun in her new role until February 2007, when Gabby's world was turned upside down. She was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) - a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that commonly strikes more men than women, and usually shows up in people after age 50.
"You hear 'cancer' or 'leukemia' and it is scary," she told me.
Two of her cousins, ages 30 and 6, died from acute leukemias. Her father has the same disease.
With CLL, she explained, a patient shows a low red-blood cell count and a high white-blood cell count. Normally, that would be good because the white-blood cells are the "soldiers" who fight off infection.
"When you have CLL," she said, "the soldier cells are replaced by idiots, and they crowd out the good cells."
Patients in more advanced stages of the disease become prone to infections. Cuts, colds and flu can become life-threatening.
Gabby is still at stage zero, where no treatment is necessary.
In May 2008, Gabby was working as an "alien" on the set of Adam Sandler's movie "Bedtime Stories." She was feeling nauseated, and attributed it to being nervous.
Two days later, she discovered she was pregnant.
The pregnancy was risky, because of her age and the disease. Doctors had no answers when she asked if the pregnancy would have an effect on CLL, or if the CLL would have an effect on the pregnancy. It was an "elderly disease," she was told, and pregnancy had never been an issue.
Gabby felt sick and had a recurrence of her initial CLL symptoms.
"My husband and I were frightened. All of a sudden I was sick again. We were afraid the pregnancy was kicking in the CLL. We were concerned about the pregnancy, and what it was going to do to my health," she said.
Gabby is a Googler, meaning she is into Internet research. It paid off when her research revealed that umbilical cord blood stem cells were being used to treat CLL.
"Some patients get bone marrow transplants," she said. Bone marrow is more difficult to match, she said. The cord blood stem cells are more pure.
There was only one drawback, and it was a biggie.
"It said the cells from one cord were often not enough for treatment."
About one week later, Gabby went to have an ultrasound and see how the baby was progressing. That was the day she and her husband were told they were having twins.
"At that time we realized we had no decisions to make. This was all happening for a reason and that it was supposed to happen. We accepted it as the blessing it was."
The twins were sharing one placenta, which can sometimes be a concern if one baby is taking most of the nourishment.
"I talked to them all through the pregnancy and told them to be good sharers. They worked with me," she said with a laugh.
Lily and Ivy were born by cesarean section at 37 weeks, which is considered full term for twins, both of them healthy.
Tests on the cord blood were good, and it will now be stored with the Cord Blood Registry program. Because Gabby has a disease known to be treatable with the cord blood stem cells, the program waived the testing and storage fees.
If and when the time comes that Gabby needs treatment, the cord blood stem cells will be there.
"These are our miracle babies," she said. "My husband and I just look at each other and shake our heads. A year ago, we never thought we would be in this place now."