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Cathy Rodriguez and her husband, Adan, stay very busy keeping up with their 3-year-old twin boys, Marcos and Mateo. But their story could be very different.

“We were already considered high risk because of my age and because they were twins,” Rodriguez said. “Around 18 weeks, they knew something was not right.”

The Rodriguez family is serving as Greenville’s 2017 March for Babies Ambassador Family for the March for Babies event to be held May 6 at Greenville Technical College’s Barton Campus.

Initially, doctors thought Marcos and Mateo were suffering from twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a condition that could potentially be fatal to one or both babies. Though that condition was ruled out, Rodriguez was monitored weekly.

“Every week, they said pack a bag and bring it with you,” she said. “The one week I didn’t bring it was the week they sent me in.”

The boys were delivered 14 weeks early, weighing just 1 pound, 6.6 ounces and 1 pound, 13 ounces. Marcos and Mateo spent 136 days and 112 days, respectively, in the NICU at Greenville Memorial Hospital.

“They ended up calling it Selective Intrauterine Growth Restriction,” Rodriguez said. “Marcos’ sac and the fluid around him was fine, but his cord blood flow was absent and at times reversed. His cord placement on the placenta was terrible and his cord was only about an inch long and the width of a straw. Mateo’s was fine. We delivered because of Marcos. He’s an incredibly tough little guy. He’s legally blind, but you wouldn’t know it. He’s had five surgeries so far. He’s tough as nails. Mateo is too, but he hasn’t had the level of issues.”

Rodriguez credits the staff of the NICU and the medical advances made through March of Dimes research for giving her sons full and happy lives. She is so committed to the NICU that she now gives back by supporting other families through the NICU Family Support Program and the Upstate Mothers of Multiples Club.

“They became our family – the nurses and doctors there,” she said.

Surfactant therapy, which helps the lungs of premature babies to inflate, was developed by March of Dimes research. It was important to the boys’ survival.

“I don’t think we would be here without what they had done in the past,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think we would be here without the technology. Even six years ago, they wouldn’t attempt to save babies under 26 weeks. Today, they are saving 22 and 23 weekers.”

The journey hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. Rodriguez said the cost has been high.

“And not just the financial cost,” she said. “All of our firsts have been different. The first time they breathed without (supplemental) oxygen was incredible. We celebrate when we get released from a specialist. Our lifestyle has been totally different. When we first got home from the hospital, we couldn’t go out of the house and no one could come see them. A germ could kill them. Very few people actually saw them in person until they turned one. We couldn’t go to day care. We had to have a nanny at our house, which was very expensive. We were fortunate that we could do that. Every time we came home from work or the grocery store, we had to shower and change clothes before we could touch them.”

Now, the boys are thriving, despite their challenges.

“We are very thankful and we see the blessing,” Rodriguez said. “They are so smart and they are overcoming everything because of the fabulous people in our lives.”

March for Babies is May 6. Teams and individuals can register at marchforbabies.org.

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