Zander & Tabitha

Zander and Tabitha


Weighing only two and half pounds each, Alexander (Zander) and Tabitha Dominguez were born at just 25 weeks in the Phoenix Children's Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Their parents, Laura and Alex, weren't prepared for the surreal wave of events that occurred the night doctors told them they would need to perform an emergency cesarean section.   

"We talked to the doctors and got all of the percentages of what might and might not happen," recalls Alex. "I was more scared than anything, not sure of what the outcome would be. It was completely overwhelming…almost too much to take in at one time."

Both babies were placed on ventilators to help them breathe. Tabitha's condition was touch and go. She needed to be revived several times and Laura says doctors weren't sure Tabitha would make it through the night. "At one point they brought her to me because I think they wanted to make sure I would see her alive," remembers Laura.

Tabitha did pull through and her condition continued to improve. Though both twins had bleeding on the brain, it was Zander who took a turn for the worse. "At that time Tabitha was doing beautifully, and it's been that way ever since," says Laura. There was too much pressure in Zander's brain, and he later developed meningitis. As a result, he suffered brain damage.

Underscoring the gravity of Zander's condition, he was transported home in an ambulance. "I remember wondering how we were going to manage all of it," recalls Alex. Neither parent slept for several nights, waiting and worrying that Zander's apnea monitor would alarm, telling them he had stopped breathing. It did. More than once Alex needed to revive Zander.

Alex says the two are still on edge much of the time, especially at night. "That feeling of fear never really goes away. When something does go wrong, it feels just like that first night we brought him home," he says. "We just know how to handle it better now. But your heart still races a million miles a minute."

One year later Laura says they're still coming to terms with Zander's health issues. "There was such a gradual progression of Zander's illnesses that it didn't really strike us all at once." An oxygen tank helps her son breathe and his trach must be suctioned continuously. Feedings are done through a tube and Zander is prone to respiratory and viral infections. More than half of his life has been spent at Phoenix Children's, in and out of the hospital for shunt revisions, pneumonia and other complications. He recently began having seizures.

Only time will tell exactly how much brain damage Zander suffered. But he's active, alert and smiles. Tabitha continues to do well for her adjusted age. A team of specialists at Phoenix Children's monitor their physical, emotional and social development.

Laura and Alex continue to take everything one day at a time, not always sure what each day will bring. "We've gotten to the point where we're comfortable with all of Zander's issues," says Laura. "But then something new will pop up and change everything."

But they wouldn’t have it any other way. The sacrifices they’ve made are a small price to pay for having each of their children home with them. “Sure, we’d like to take a cruise or go to the movies once in a while,” says Alex. “But the alternative would mean that we wouldn’t have brought our twins home. I can’t even think of that.”

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