Tuesday, September 08, 2015

TOP STORY >> Miracle of conjoined twins

Leader staff writer

“To us, they’re just our grandbabies,” said Carol Ezell about 2-year-old twins Emmett and Owen — the “medical miracles” who visited Sylvan Hills Church of Christ in Sherwood on Sunday.

The Ezell twins’ story made national headlines a few years ago, and this is their first out-of-town trip since then.

The conjoined boys were separated at the tender age of six weeks after being born on July 15, 2013. They shared a liver and intestines.

Their grandma, who lives in Sherwood with her husband, told The Leader, “There’s no way that they can be here without the hand of God. At first, I was just devastated...My son, they were just broken. And I was broken for ’em, and we thought we weren’t going to have ‘em.”

She continued, “We failed to give God the glory....‘Why Lord,’ I asked him. ‘Why did you give us these babies?’ And he said, ‘Turn that around. Carol, this is a blessing.’”

The toddlers’ grandpa, Dean Ezell, said, “I’m just as proud as I could be. These boys, despite all the hoopla, they’re just grandkids to me. I’ll be honest with you, I was the optimist in this group…There was never any doubt in my mind.”

The twins’ father, David Ezell of Russellville, spoke about the family’s struggle at the Sunday service. “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to say thank you enough to you guys for the prayers. We needed ’em. We still need ’em,” he began.

David Ezell also announced that he and his wife, Jenni, are expecting a fifth child — a girl. They have four boys now, and the twins are the youngest.

About Emmett and Owen, the dad said, “Before the boys went into their surgery, their separation surgery, I was on my knees begging. And I was terrified, and most days I still am. I was begging God to take what seemed like it was going to be no chance of survival and give me two healthy boys.”

He continued, “What I told God that day was ‘Do this so that you can have a story that I can tell for you that will give you glory and lots of it.’ And God did.”

David Ezell said his wife’s pregnancy was a surprise. He joked about how Jenni said before the first ultrasound, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we went to this appointment and it’s twins?’”

He looked at his wife after the tech found two heartbeats and told her, tongue-in-cheek, “You did this.”

The parents found out in March both their gender and that something was wrong.

David Ezell listed the issues and statistics for the congregation then. He said conjoined twins occur once in every 200,000 births. The parents were told their boys had heart defects and one had severe spinal deformation in the womb.

Most doctors don’t encounter conjoined twins, the dad explained, so theirs presented stats. Approximately 40 to 60 percent are stillborn. Of those born alive, approximately 35 percent survive more than one day, David Ezell said.
“So, under the very best circumstances, our boys had between a 5 and 25 percent chance of living more than one day.”
He and his wife considered terminating the pregnancy to spare their other children “the pain of losing new brothers like that.”

Tests had to be done first because Jenni had a C-section before, and the family traveled to Texas for those.

David Ezell said God went to work then, by having a clinic send the parents to a doctor who had experience with separating conjoined twins.

That gave the family hope, the dad said. He and Jennie changed their minds, putting faith in God.

A lot of prenatal testing followed their decision to have the boys.

The first hurdle was the pair being born alive and then living more than a day. When the twins were born, they “didn’t just survive, they thrived,” David Ezell said.

The first plan was to separate after they turned a year old. But then the family learned Emmett being bigger than Owen would cause their kidneys to shut down, as fluids were to be processed by the larger baby. Emmett’s kidneys were being overworked, and Owen’s weren’t being used enough.

Several other concerns came up, but the family continued to repeat its mantra, which David Ezell said is “God’s got this.”
He told the congregation, “And, frankly, He had it.”

The surgery was nine hours long, but the family waited for 14 hours with that included prep- and post-operation procedures.

David Ezell said they were notified throughout of how it was going. The Ezells expected bad news, complications, but heard of none.

Upon hearing the surgery had gone perfectly, “We rejoiced in a way that I had never experienced in my life,” he said.

The twins came home after nearly a year at a rehabilitation hospital. Their parents learned there how to care for them, as the boys still have numerous medical needs.

The mom and dad train nurses that come into their home to assist with the twins, who were recently able to have their tracheotomy tubes removed but still eat through feeding tubes attached to their stomachs and take dozens of medications.

The toddlers are communicating using sign language now, but will hopefully be speaking soon and may eventually be able to eat without the feeding tubes, their parents said.

David and Jenni Ezell are Arkansas natives, but moved to Texas because the state couldn’t offer medical services the twins will need.

Both of their families live here, though, and the two call both states home.

Jenni Ezell said later at Carol Ezell’s house after the church service, “Family is love, and it’s happiness and joy. I tell Dave these are the golden years of our life. When we get old, this is what we are going to look back on. I don’t want to regret anything. So, five kids. Let’s do it. Let’s be that big happy family.”