Four times the love
Preemies thriving 14 years after being born at UF Health Jacksonville
By Tiffany Wilson
After five unsuccessful fertility treatments, Michelle and Rey Regulacion wondered if their dream of having a child together would ever come true.
But when the Callahan couple attempted invitro fertilization for the sixth time, they received news no future parent could be prepared for: Michelle was pregnant … with quadruplets.
They knew their four children would be in a fight for their lives when they were born at just 27 weeks’ gestation. But they also had faith that they were in the best hands at the UF Health Jacksonville Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
One of only two Level III regional referral centers in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, the UF Health Jacksonville NICU has the specialized equipment and highly trained caregivers required to take on the unique needs of a newborn child who is ill or premature. They treat babies at a moment’s notice 24 hours a day, in the hospital and even en route to the hospital in their Neonatal Transport Team’s “NICU on wheels.”
Each weighing less than 2 pounds, Issabella, Elijah, Hannah and Madison faced challenges in the first weeks of their lives. Issabella came down with spinal meningitis at 2 weeks old. Madison suffered collapsed lungs every time she was taken off a ventilator.
“When a baby is born at 27 weeks, he’s at the same stage he would be inside his mother, so he has to finish developing,” said Sue Amole, R.N., one of the NICU nurses who took care of the babies. “It’s not just their lungs that need to develop. It’s the brain, kidneys, skin, intestinal tract … Our job is to do everything we can to help them develop as though they were still inside their mother.”
The children were so fragile, they couldn’t even be held, but that didn’t stop their mother from taking an active role in their care.
“I remember getting there at 8 every morning, and I would stay until 1 or 2 a.m. I just couldn’t leave them. I trusted the nurses, but I needed to know what was going on,” Michelle said.
All four children were fighters, and each eventually went home in good health.
Today, the Regulacion quadruplets are lively 14-year-olds who enjoy sports and earn high grades in school. Over the years, they have made many return visits to UF Health Jacksonville, but only to thank the staff once again for giving them the best shot at life in those crucial weeks after they were born.
It seems like a distant memory now, but Michelle’s first doctor at another hospital told her neither she nor her babies could survive the pregnancy. The mom-to-be followed her heart and found a doctor at UF Health, who vowed to bring Michelle and all four babies safely through.
Rey said there are just a few people he refers to as his heroes, and Michelle is number one.
“I don’t know anybody else who could have sustained any sanity of any sort. Some people would bend and bend and break, but she didn’t. She’s one tough gal,” he said.
Michelle said raising four children of the same age has been challenging, but she wouldn’t change it.
“I couldn’t imagine my life without all four of them. They’re just four awesome kids. And everything my husband and I do, we do it for them,” she said.