At some point, Jenni and Dave Ezell will relax.
They take each day individually, not allowing their minds to wonder if their infant twin sons will be OK tomorrow or next week.
“We don't talk like we're going to lose one or both of them,” said Jenni Ezell, who until last month lived in Guthrie, and has family in Oklahoma. “Even to each other, we talk like we're going to have two babies. I don't think we want to even think that.”
The Ezells are parents to identical twins conjoined at their abdomens. On Saturday, a team of almost 40 surgeons, doctors and nurses will work to separate the boys, who were born July 15 in Dallas.
There's a 30 percent chance that both boys will survive.
There's a 30 percent chance that only one of the boys will live.
“30 percent is being optimistic,” Jenni Ezell wrote in her blog, titled “The Ezell Twins.”
Jenni Ezell cries often — but if you ask her about that time she spends with Emmett and Owen, she shines, a smile spreading across her face, a mother beaming with love.
She spends about 12 hours a day in the neonatal intensive care unit at a Dallas hospital with her boys. During “hands-on” time, she helps the hospital staff with various things the boys have to go through each day.
“When they're awake and it's not hands-on time, I love on them, and I get in their little faces and play music for them and pat them,” she said.
She plays a piece by composer Frederic Chopin that some refer to as the “Raindrop” prelude. She gets online and shops for them. A mobile with wooden dragons hangs above their hospital bed. They have a toy snail that lights up.
Surviving despite expectations
Dave and Jenni Ezell were almost not parents of Emmett and Owen.
The Ezells lived in Guthrie until early July with their two sons, Ethan, 7, and Liam, 1. They moved to Dallas because they found a doctor who gave them hope for their yet-to-be-born boys.
An Oklahoma City doctor had earlier told them otherwise. He told them the boys would likely be born with birth defects and didn't have a good chance of living. If they did survive, the doctor painted a grim picture, including heart defects and a very poor quality of life.
After a very long weekend, the Ezells made the decision to have an abortion. They went to an Oklahoma abortion clinic, but were told it was too complicated of a case to take. They were then referred to a Dallas abortion clinic, where staff worried about how long the abortion would take and the potential complications for Jenni Ezell.
They referred the Ezells to a maternal fetal medicine specialist for an examination to determine if the procedure would be safe for Jenni Ezell.
Dave Ezell said throughout the pregnancy and since the twins were born, they've experienced interventions, moments where their boys survived, despite what was expected to happen.
For example, the Dallas specialist performed a sonogram and told them the babies didn't look like they had any defects.
“He said, ‘As far as I can tell, their only condition is being conjoined,'” Dave Ezell said. “At that point, that's when he was like, ‘You've got other options.' He basically said we can perform a separation ... He basically gave us hope that we hadn't had at any point up to then.”
‘Nothing more precious'
The boys are omphalopagus conjoined twins, connected at the umbilical region, or at their mid-abdomens.
On Saturday, at 40 days old, the boys will undergo surgery to be separated. Doctors in Dallas will separate their single liver into one for each boy.
They also share a duodenum, the first part of the small intestine. Where the duodenum would normally be, between the stomach and the middle part of the small intestine, the boys' comes together as a single large one. Doctors hope there will be enough tissue to make one for each baby.
Throughout the pregnancy and birth, Jenni Ezell has blogged. On Aug. 12, she wrote a blog post after she and her husband met with their doctor to discuss the twins' surgery. She felt sad, fearful, tired, worried and helpless.
“I understand, now, the helplessness of the human race,” she wrote. “We are weak. I understand, now, the transience of life. We all succumb to death. I understand, now, the joy of new life. There is nothing more precious.”