Greencastle twins help inaugurate new UPMC NICU in Carlisle
Looking at the chubby-legged baby girls smiling on the floor of their home in Greencastle, it’s hard to imagine the challenges they faced even before they were born.
The Mills twins, Evelyn and Rowan, were delivered at 33 weeks — seven weeks earlier than full term — at UPMC Harrisburg on June 14. Evelyn came into the world first weighing 3 pounds, 11 ounces, followed by Rowan at 4 pounds, 1 ounce.
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Before they made it all the way home more than a month later, the daughters of Renee Scott and Trey Mills helped inaugurate the new UPMC Magee-Womens Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Carlisle.
“This is where we’re sitting at today, my little 15-pounder (Evelyn) and 17-pounder (Rowan),” Scott said in mid-January. They are mainly on target for 7-month-olds in terms of rolling, eating solid food and weight, and Rowan was the first to have a tooth pop through.
What happened during this high-risk pregnancy?
“The story started when I realized I wanted another baby,” said Scott, who had an easy, full-term pregnancy with daughter Kaylyn Spigler, now an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School.
“I thought, 'OK, I can do this again,’” said Scott, who learned she was pregnant the day before Thanksgiving in 2021.
Having twins was a whole new experience for Scott. She was referred to a WellSpan maternal fetal medicine doctor who confirmed she was expecting identical girls who shared a placenta, but not an amniotic sac.
With a high-risk pregnancy, she underwent weekly checks, and complications were detected with Baby A, who would become Evelyn.
She was a lot smaller, didn’t have enough amniotic fluid and was sucked up tight to Scott’s uterus. Baby A was growth restricted and receiving less blood flow from the placenta than Baby B, who would become Rowan.
“Growth restrictions can’t be fixed,” said Scott, who was referred to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. The options were “wait it out or cut the cord."
“I wasn’t going to play God,” Scott said.
Around the same time, the babies were diagnosed with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome — Evelyn didn’t have enough fluid in her amniotic sac and Rowan had too much. The TTTS reached stage 2 and Evelyn’s bladder couldn’t be seen because it wasn’t producing any urine.
“If not fixed, it could take one of their lives or both,” said Scott.
Twenty-one weeks into the pregnancy, she was awake for “an amazing” surgery “to try to even things out.” Blood vessels in the placenta that were all going to Rowan’s amniotic sac were cauterized and doctors also went into the sac and removed 1.6 liters of fluid that were putting a strain on Rowan’s heart.
By the next day, Evelyn had more fluid in her sac and both babies were going strong.
How did the twins go from delivery in Harrisburg to the NICU in Carlisle to home in Greencastle?
While their mother talks about the weeks leading up to their birth, the twins roll around on the floor, watching “Teletubbies” on TV and reaching for their four-legged sibling Samson, a 5-year-old Yorkie-poo.
“He was my baby before they came,” Scott noted.
Weekly visits to Johns Hopkins continued and Scott started to think about when and where to have her babies.
She was worried about pre-term labor and because of the earlier surgery, delivery was recommended at no more than 34 weeks because of the risk of the placenta shutting down.
“I wanted to go as long as I could, but I was afraid to go too long,” Scott said.
With Johns Hopkins two hours away, she started looking at options closer to home and settled on UPMC Harrisburg. Given the choice between 32 and 34 weeks, Scott picked the middle at 33.
The girls were delivered by cesarean section, Evelyn need some assistance to get her heart going, and they both were quickly taken to the NICU.
Despite their early arrival, the twins only had to be assisted with light air for the first day of their lives and did not have any major medical issues.
“It was just growing them and having them gain weight to come home. They just needed to get fatter and learn how to eat,” said Scott, who made the trip from Greencastle to Harrisburg daily to see them.
Because of the time, distance and rise in gas prices, she asked about moving the twins closer to home.
The NICU at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital was in the running and had one bed available at one point, “but I have two babies,” Scott said.
That’s when the new UPMC Magee-Womens NICU in Carlisle opened. One at a time, the twins were transferred via ambulance on July 7.
“It wasn’t as close as Chambersburg, but it was closer and gave me more time to spend with the girls,” Scott said.
The twins had their own room in Harrisburg, but Scott preferred the six-bed open area of the Carlisle NICU.
“Even being newly opened, the nurses were impeccable, always willing to answer questions,” Scott said. “I was able to be more hands-on … baths, feeding, temperatures … That’s what any parent wants.
“It wasn’t long until we got them feeding on their own, off feeding tubes and gaining weight,” Scott said.
Each girl had to have a day without setting off any alarms for oxygen levels, heart rates or other problems before heading home.
Evelyn, the tinier sister then weighing in at not quite 5 pounds, was discharged first on July 18. Rowan followed two days later on July 20.
“I’ll be forever grateful we ended up in Carlisle,” said Scott. She went back for a visit just after Thanksgiving and after flu season is over, she plans to take Evelyn and Rowan.
The medical staff was happy to receive a note and photos from Scott with an update about the girl, according to Malini Mattler, manager of media relations for UPMC in Central Pennsylvania, where the health system has a growing presence, including a 72-bed pediatric hospital at UPMC Harrisburg that opened in 2020.
The NICU in Carlisle features six beds with equipment for advanced care and monitoring, and a neonatal team that provides specialized care for babies born as early as 32 weeks or who need extra time and support. This includes babies that have trouble breathing, low blood sugar, antibiotic therapy or, like the Mills girls, need extra time to grow.
"This Level II NICU is staffed by very experienced neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, NICU nurses, respiratory therapists and other ancillary personnel to support critical infants," said Jarrod Johnson, president, UPMC Carlisle. “We are committed to continuing our expansion of advanced care while delivering excellence in all we do for our patients and families in this community.”
Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at email@example.com