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NICU heroes decrease mortality rate for preemies

Seven weeks pregnant, Heather Cox lies back for her first sonogram to meet her tiny baby. As soon as the wand hits her stomach, the doctor’s face goes blank. The nurse behind him gasps and holds her hand over her mouth in disbelief.

Seven weeks pregnant, Heather Cox lies back for her first sonogram to meet her tiny baby. As soon as the wand hits her stomach, the doctor’s face goes blank. The nurse behind him gasps and holds her hand over her mouth in disbelief. Heather assumes it’s the nurse’s first time to sit in on an ultrasound but then…

“I see triplets,” the doctor reveals.

The shock is deafening. Jaws are dropped.

“Wait, I think I see one more…” the doctor says, pausing briefly, and then confirming, “Yes, there is another heartbeat.”

Heather’s husband Bret yells, “STOP COUNTING!”

Heather is speechless. The doctor, just as surprised, says, “I have never diagnosed quadruplets before.”


That was six years ago. Today, Brody, Baxlyn, Kylee and Korbin are happy and healthy quadruplets, but they didn’t get an easy start in life. They were born three months early on February 16, 2009, at only 28 weeks and five days old.


Reflecting back on that day at the doctor’s office, Heather and Bret were excited, but they suddenly found themselves in a  high-risk situation, and the doctor made that clear: They could lose any or all of the babies at any time.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen thanks to the exceptional care the Cox family received from The Medical Center of Plano NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) staff. Heather commends the NICU staff for their support, even before the babies were delivered. After working with the hospital’s entire interdisciplinary team and almost losing one of the children, Heather was finally able to take the babies home 26 weeks later—on their due date!

NICU heroes at The Medical Center of Plano

In observance of Prematurity Awareness Month in November, it is important to honor caregivers in hospitals like The Medical Center of Plano, who work tirelessly in the NICU. These trained individuals provide around-the-clock care for the most fragile of patients. Given the unpredictable nature of prematurity, the NICU journey can be an emotional roller coaster ride for families gripped with fear and uncertainty.

Dr. Mahesh Thummala, Regional Medical Director of Sheridan Children’s Healthcare, has worked in neonatology for more than 25 years. Thummala has spent 16 of them with the Medical Center of Plano, participating in improving the overall outcomes by standardizing neonatal practices, such as focusing on family centered care, promoting breast feeding and skin-to-skin.

The Medical Center of Plano is one of the regional leaders in Level III NICU care, utilizing advanced techniques in including high frequency ventilation, inhaled Nitric oxide for babies with respiratory failure, and brain cooling for asphyxiated infants, all to improve outcomes for premature infants. These techniques have been instrumental in helping to decrease the nationwide mortality rate for premature infants by nearly 25 percent since the early 1990s.


Four-of-a-kind and an ace

Heather shares that the quads all have very different personalities. “People who meet them pick up on that fact quickly and always mention how different and unique they are. Brody is our little southern boy with a country accent and many [people] say he is an ‘Old Soul.’ Baxlyn is my mini-me. She loves to sort, organize, clean and is a born leader. Kylee is our outgoing animal lover, and Korbin is your typical boy who loves being outdoors, sports and rough housing with their little brother.”

Yes, little brother. The Cox family welcomed Blade, their fifth baby, in October of 2012. He was born full term at a whopping 10lbs. 8oz.—just a couple of ounces less than all of his siblings combined at birth!

“Blade just turned 3 and fits right in with the rest of them. He’s catching up to his siblings in size very quickly!” says Heather.

A stay-at-home-mom, Heather’s days start at 6 a.m. and wind down around 6:30 p.m. when the five kids go to bed. She watches a couple of other kids several days a week and enjoys volunteering at the kids’ school. She’s also on the board for the Plano Area Mothers of Multiples. “I am so blessed to be able to stay at home. Having the quads in school now has definitely been a nice break for me and has allowed me to stay on top of he everyday household chores that come along with a family of seven,” she said. “It’s also been wonderful having some one-on-one time with our youngest, Blade. Although I was always home with the quads, there’s something special about having just one baby to get to love on and spoil from time to time!

“Many people ask me, ‘Is it getting easier as they get older?’ to which I am quick to answer, ‘NO!’ While I love where we are now, I find it’s even more challenging than when they were babies. With age comes attitude and independence! All in all, we are so blessed and are so thankful so call these precious miracles our own!”

Miracles, indeed, and with the commitment and care from NICU heroes, we can hope to see more happy endings for families of preemies.