Grief used to help others experiencing a similar challenge
They married in November 2008 and settled into Todd’s house in Swanville, the town where he grew up.
They knew there would be fertility challenges because of the polycystic ovary syndrome that Kerry was dealing with, an endocrine disorder.
“We started fertility treatments right away in early 2009,” Kerry said. “After everything else had failed, we tried in vitro fertilization.”
Two embryos were implanted in June 2011 and a pregnancy with twins was confirmed.
“The due date was late February 2012,” Todd said.
The pregnancy was progressing fine until Kerry felt a “funky heart flutter” one night in late August.
They headed to the emergency room in St. Cloud at about 3 a.m. Most of the test results seemed normal, although Kerry’s thyroid numbers were off.
“They weren’t real concerned,” Todd said, “but told her to get it checked soon.”
About a week later, Kerry went to an endocrinologist, who did an ultrasound of her thyroid. Although the test showed a growth, the doctor told her that it was pretty common and not to worry about it; she should just get it checked after the babies were born.
The pregnancy continued without incident until mid- September.
“We were getting ready for church when there was a gush of water,” Kerry said.
“It never really crossed our minds that it was her water breaking,” Todd said. “It was too early in the pregnancy; things had been going fine.”
“Instinctively, I just felt something was not right,” said Kerry. “So instead of turning to go to church, we turned the other way and went to St. Cloud.”
“We wanted to be cautious, but thought to ourselves that we couldn’t be going to the ER for every little thing,” Todd said. “We knew this was something more.”
Tests showed that baby A’s membrane had ruptured. There was no chance of survival for the babies at only 17 weeks. The main risk was the health of the mother.
“But we decided not to end the pregnancy,” Todd and Kerry said.
Kerry received intravenous (IV) antibiotics for five days to reduce the risk of infection, but there was nothing they could do for the babies. The doctors predicted a 90 percent chance that labor would start within a week.
Twenty-four weeks is the point at which any baby’s chance for survival becomes possible.
“They gave us about a 1 percent chance of even making it to 24 weeks,” Todd said.
Kerry was released with oral antibiotics and had to check her temperature every hour for fever.
“I went in every week, with an ultrasound every other week,” she said. “They were always surprised to see that I made it another week.”
On the morning of Nov. 3, at 23 weeks and 6 days, Kerry woke up not feeling right. A shower didn’t help; breakfast didn’t help. She and Todd left their house about 5:30 a.m. for St. Cloud.
“I was in screaming pain by the time we hit Royalton,” she said.
She was taken very soon to an operating room and pushed twice to give birth to their son, Jacob Todd, weighing 1.3 pounds. He was baby A.
“We could see that they were having trouble with him,” said Todd, who was at Kerry’s side waiting for the birth of baby B.
It was 20 – 30 minutes before the second baby was born, and during that time a doctor came over to Todd and asked him to make a decision to stop cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Jacob.
“I told him, ‘I can’t make that call,’” Todd said. At that moment, Jacob started breathing and was taken out of the room.
The membrane around baby B was left to break on its own, and Eleanor Ann was born weighing 1.2 pounds.
The babies were stabilized in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). After about 45 minutes, Todd and Kerry went to see their babies.
“Jacob just looked sick,” Kerry said.
“We knew his chances were not good,” Todd said. “He was receiving constant care. But they thought that Ellie had a fighting chance.”
Jacob died at 12 hours old.
“Ellie was doing OK then,” Kerry said.
“The nurse told us that if the babies survive to even get to the NICU, they usually go home,” said Todd.
But the next night, Ellie took a turn for the worse.
The Olsons and Kerry’s parents, who had driven straight through from the Washington, D.C. area, had just finished dinner when Todd received a call to return to the hospital.
Ellie needed a blood transfusion. The next morning she got an infection. The Olsons discussed Ellie’s treatment with the doctor.
“We didn’t want to make her fight anymore,” Kerry said. “We decided to let her go meet her brother.”
“We just looked at each other and knew it was time,” Todd said. “We allowed the life support machines to be shut off.”
“We had gotten so far and beat all the odds and thought maybe she’d make it,” Kerry said.
The next day, Kerry called the endocrinologist to schedule a biopsy of her thyroid. On Tuesday she was back in the hospital.
“It was one of the hardest things to do — all the sights and smells and sounds of our time with the babies,” she said.
Two days later the Olsons got the results of the biopsy — thyroid cancer. About a month later, Kerry’s thyroid was removed and it was found that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. About 10 were removed.
“By the grace of God I hadn’t gotten sick during the pregnancy and statistically that is a huge milestone,” Kerry said. “The doctor said I should have been the one in the ICU. And the cancer was a very slow-progressing, non-aggressive cancer. If it weren’t for the babies, they would probably not have caught the cancer.”
The doctor told the Olsons that she would normally never have ordered an ultrasound on someone with the thyroid numbers Kerry had.
“We have to look at the silver lining,” Kerry said. “Who knows why things turned out the way they did. But we know that Jake and Ellie are at home in heaven with God.”
The Olsons heard about the March of Dimes while they were in the hospital and once they were home, did some online research. They discovered that there was a walk coming up, the March for Babies.
“We wanted to channel our energy toward a cause to remember them by,” Todd said.
Friends and family didn’t really know what to do to support the Olsons, and the walk gave them a way to do that. The Olsons formed Team Olson Twin Angels and walked in St. Cloud’s March for Babies in April 2012.
They were the spokesfamily for the March of Dimes’ “Jail and Bail” event in June 2012 in Little Falls.
After both of their employment situations changed, they moved to Little Falls in December 2012.
They were asked to be the 2013 Ambassador Family for the March for Babies in St. Cloud, and gladly accepted. The walk is Saturday, April 13 at St. Cloud State University. Event registration begins at 8:30 a.m. at Halenbeck Hall, with the walk getting under way at 10 a.m.
“If the babies had survived longer, the March of Dimes would have been there for us,” Todd said.
“We know how important funding for prenatal development research is,” Kerry said. “Our mission is that all babies will go home with their mommys and daddies.”
For more information, contact the St. Cloud office of the March of Dimes at (320) 252-1156. To donate to Team Olson Twin Angels visit www.marchforbabies.org/team/t1913342.