LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) – Darla LaPoint gave birth to identical twin babies, Lydia and Lani, each only weighing a little over one pound. Since birth, they have struggled to stay alive with underdeveloped hearts and lungs, a condition called patent ductus arteriosus, PDA.
After birth, "several blood vessels in the body that we don't need close off. When they don't close off, particularly the one that re-routes blood from the lungs, if that stays open then blood flow to the heart and lungs is very messed up," said Dr. Steve Howe, cardiovascular surgeon at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.
Closing that opening is crucial for the twins to breathe, but with such tiny hearts the operation takes a delicate touch.
"The piece they are trying to close is no thicker than a piece of toilet paper wet, so if it is pinched there is nothing they can do. If [Dr. Howe] didn't do it right then she [one of the twins] could possibly bleed out and we would lose her," explained Shane LaPoint, the twins' father.
"[The surgery] is charged with a lot of emotion but it is special and there is something different about operating on a brand new life," said Dr. Howe.
Lani is at a hospital in New Orleans after they discovered another pulmonary problem after her heart surgery. Their mother, Darla, shuttles back and forth between Lake Charles, where Lydia is recovering and New Orleans. Dr. Howe said PDA is common in premature infants.
"We're seeing premature infants viable earlier and earlier. We are seeing babies at 25 and 24 weeks of gestation born and live," explained Dr. Howe.
Darla and Shane LaPoint hope to bring their baby girls home in late March. They will hold a benefit to help cover medical costs Sunday, February 27, 2011 from 10am to 5pm at the Iowa City Park.