Sisters Dakota and Alexia Neal are alive today thanks to a specialized treatment their mother received at EvergreenHealth more than a decade ago while she was 19 weeks pregnant with the identical twins. Recently, the Arizona-based family traveled back to Kirkland to introduce the girls to the doctor that saved their lives 11 years ago.
In August 2005, Aaron and Kara Neal of Phoenix, Ariz., were eagerly expecting twin daughters when a routine doctor’s visit revealed a troubling complication – Stage 2 Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), a potentially life-threatening condition for both fetuses. At that time, only one hospital on the entire West Coast offered a procedure that could save not just one, but both twins: Kirkland-based EvergreenHealth.
EvergreenHealth’s maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. Martin Walker was one of just a handful of physicians in the country with specialized training in the treatment of TTTS, which can occur when identical twin fetuses receive unequal amounts of the shared placenta’s blood supply – often leaving one twin at risk of dehydration and anemia, and the other at risk of congestive heart failure due to volume overload.
Three days after the diagnosis, Aaron and Kara traveled to EvergreenHealth to receive laser photocoagulation treatment, an in-utero surgical treatment that uses laser energy to close the surface-level blood vessels of the placenta so that the fetuses’ blood is no longer shared.
The procedure was a success, and Dakota and Alexia were born in December 2005 at 35 weeks, weighing 3.5 and 5.2 pounds respectively.
“It’s a very serious diagnosis, and requires immediate intervention in order to save at least one of the fetuses,” Dr. Walker described. “If TTTS is not treated, both twins have an 80 to 100 percent chance of dying. I’m thankful that the Neal family sought treatment so quickly after their diagnosis and that our team was able to save both of their daughters.”
Kara was Dr. Walker’s 50th patient to receive the life-saving laser treatment; today, he has performed the procedure for over 500 patients. EvergreenHealth remains the only health care system in the state of Washington—and across the Pacific Northwest— to offer laser photocoagulation for TTTS. Patients continue come to EvergreenHealth from across the country to seek treatment from the Kirkland-based maternal-fetal medicine team.
“My family and I are so grateful we found Dr. Walker and that our girls are thriving,” said Aaron. “Being able to meet the doctor who saved their lives was very exciting for Dakota and Alexia. Since they both love science, they were really intrigued to hear about how the procedure works, too. The reunion couldn’t have gone any better.”
“EvergreenHealth is proud to be home to one of the most advanced maternal-fetal medicine teams in the country,” said Bob Malte, CEO of EvergreenHealth. “From prenatal consultation and genetic counseling, to TTTS treatment and fetal therapy, our experts are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of expecting families and their babies. We are so grateful for patients like the Neals, whose personal connections with providers remain strong for many years after.”
This was taken from an EvergreenHealth press release.