Fetal Treatment Program Home Page

Twins beat odds

June 27, 2006

Eric and Adam Belisle take some time to play at the twins reunion at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Rhode Island. The twins were diagnosed in utero with a deadly syndrome. Photo Courtesy Lifespan

KENSINGTON -- On Friday, eight families gathered in Rhode Island to share stories of the birth of their children. What makes their stories unique is that they were all a part of the fetal treatment program at Rhode Island Hospital, each having gone through a laser procedure in hopes of saving the lives of their unborn twins.

Sara Belisle, now a mother of three in Kensington, was a patient at Harbour Women's Health in Portsmouth when she thought she'd had a miscarriage. After a blood test and ultrasound, she and her doctors discovered she was carrying identical twins and had not, in fact, miscarried, but that she had a dangerous condition called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome.

"I had no idea what he was talking about," she said of when her doctor first told her about the condition.

Her twins were sharing the placenta, creating a situation where one fetus was receiving most of the blood and amniotic fluid, and the other was not. In her case, the condition was severe and one of the twins was receiving no amniotic fluid.

Belisle called Rhode Island Hospital and decided to undergo a laser procedure where a laser and scope go through the stomach and divide the placenta so that the two fetuses are no longer sharing the one.

Her doctors told her there was a 50 percent chance of saving both babies and a 70 percent chance of saving one. To her, there was no question about whether to go through with the procedure. She said she tried to "just think positive" and be optimistic about the whole thing.

"I told my doctor I didn't think I had an option," she said. Following the laser procedure, she had ultrasounds done twice a week to monitor the babies.

Twenty-six weeks into her pregnancy, she went into the hospital and three weeks later she gave birth to twin boys. Because they were born prematurely, weighing only 2 pounds and 2.14 pounds, they remained in the hospital for three months.

"They were teeny," Belisle said.

Belisle was the hospital's 20th patient to have the procedure done, and the hospital is one of only three in the country that will perform the surgery.

"A lot of doctors still think it's experimental," Belisle said. Regardless, she said she felt it was the best decision for her.

"I think most women should do it," she said.

The twins are now almost 19 months old and are the healthy younger brothers to Belisle's 9-year-old daughter. They could be heard in the background during a phone interview and were vocal as their mother spoke.

"They're doing great now," she said. One twin has cysts in his kidneys, which Belisle learned while at the reunion, is likely because of TTTS. Other than that, the two are happy and healthy.

At the reunion, some of the families brought their children with them to reunite with doctors from the hospital and to hear the doctors speak. Some of the families had both twins, some only one.

"I'll tell you, if I didn't have that surgery, they wouldn't have survived," Belisle said