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Tiny Influences

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“Please, can we have a story?”

“Okay, but only one because it’s bed time.”

Two heads scramble for a place on my lap as if it’s stadium seating. Their freshly-shampooed heads dampen my shirt with a unique, fruity fragrance. As I turn the book pages, I hear a crisp rustle that comforts me more than any other sound. While Kyle and Marissa are lost in the magic of the story, I am drawn back in time to when their adventure began.

I remember traveling through the NICU thinking how polished, clean, and organized it was compared to the rest of the hospital. My shoes squeaked across the linoleum. The tang of antibacterial soap lingered down the hall. A steady thrum…thrum…thrum of monitors came from every direction and fluorescent lights quivered in never-ending rows. Pushing through the maze of incubators, I saw the crowd of white coats before I heard the alien cries.


When I first laid my eyes upon my brother and sister, they were tiny, red, squealing bodies in a sea of frantic doctors. Fear grasped my heart at the sight of the twins, for they appeared inhuman. Fused eyes greeted me like a newborn kitten’s. I gaped. I boggled. Their size was minute. One pound 13 ounces and one pound 15 ounces are just numbers until they are associated with living…breathing…beings. All I got was a glance, until the doctors dragged us away because we had not washed our hands. We were oblivious to the immense danger of germs in premature lives.

Retreating into our hospital room, we gathered around a bed with tear-streamed faces. I felt like I’d swallowed a boulder. In need of an activity, I scrunched the worn bedspread between my palms. Since we were situated roundabout, I searched my family’s faces. No one seemed to know where to look. Each of us had the same question. “How could children so delicate possibly survive?” We said a heart-felt prayer that our new family members would make it. I knew at that moment that it was out of our hands.

Over the course of three months, Kyle and Marissa kept fighting despite all the odds. To this end, morphine administration was essential just to touch their bodies. A micro-ventilator kept them alive, providing every morsel of oxygen for them. Also, the twins each underwent thoracic heart surgery in their first week of life. They suffered through numerous blood transfusions and spinal taps. Pneumonia infected their feeble bodies four times altogether. Being able to suck wasn’t instinctive. All in all, they had to be trained to do most everything I was born knowing how to do, but they succeeded and came home.

When I supported their fragile heads for the first time, I experienced terrifying rapture. It was so strange to hold faces I had gazed at for months but had never been able to touch. I could not fathom that Kyle and Marissa were real. Peering into pairs of blue eyes, I thought of what they had endured to be nestled in my arms.

Coming home, however, did not make them normal twins. On the contrary, they needed constant attention. Exposure to any bacteria could easily have killed them; consequently, they barely left our house for a year. Hence, our family became the hermit crabs on the block. Surgical masks became regular attire in our home, and oxygen tanks were a fundamental appliance. Neither flu shots nor friends coming over with a cold were negotiable. In short, Kyle and Marissa took up an ample portion of my life.

As I finish the storybook, I examine Kyle and Marissa’s captivated faces and I realize that the twins have no memory of the experiences I cannot forget. Their lives are not about what they conquered in the past but about what they confront each day. Recently, a lady commented to me, “You are so good with those kids.” In contrast, I believe they have been “so good to me.” Caring for them has taught me more than I could ever hope to give in return.





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