Tracy and Matt Regusci knew as soon as they saw the tiny twins in the neonatal intensive care unit that the boys would be going home to Arroyo Grande with them.
The Reguscis had talked with physicians, social workers and therapists at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center about the significant medical needs of these two babies, born prematurely at just 25 weeks and given up for adoption by their biological parents. They had talked about what to expect in bringing the twins into a family that already had four children.
“When we walked into the NICU and saw them for the first time, Matt started asking questions about them because he’s the science guy and the planner and that’s what he does,” Tracy Regusci said. “I don’t think I heard half of it. I just stared at them. I was in love.”
On Tuesday, the Regusci family returned to Sierra Vista to thank the NICU staff for their expertise in caring for the twins, now almost 2 1/2 years old.
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With them was Katie Reginato Cascamo from Hand to Hold, a national nonprofit that provides education and support to parents of premature and sick infants.
Hand to Hold has named Sierra Vista its 2014 grand prize winner, which comes with $5,000 worth of gifts for the neonatal intensive care unit. The Regusci family had nominated Sierra Vista for the award.
The event also was a chance for the hospital staff and the family to reminisce about the twins, Jonathan and David, who sat on their parents’ laps and shyly peeked around as the grownups talked.
The twins were born on Feb. 9, 2012, to a surrogate mother. The biological parents lived in another state, said Dr. Steve Van Scoy, the NICU medical director.
The babies “were at the edge of viability” at just 1 pound, 13 ounces each and 15 weeks early, he said.
Both were born with infections and were unable to breathe on their own. For the first two months they were warmed in incubators, continually monitored and fed intravenously as they engaged in a fundamental battle to survive and grow.
The NICU’s staff and team of volunteer “cuddlers” held and encouraged them.
Ultimately, the biological parents made the difficult decision that for personal and financial reasons they would give up the babies for adoption.
The NICU staff was devastated, Van Scoy said.
“The mama bear came out in just about everybody here,” he said, “They had become a part of our family like a lot of the kids do.”
Then the Reguscis came forward, having heard about the infants through their church, Grace Church in San Luis Obispo. The staff was elated, Van Scoy said, and six weeks later at 4 months of age the boys went home.
The twins have been remarkably healthy, only needing eye surgeries for partially detached retinas, a relatively common complication for preemies, Tracy Regusci said. They probably will enter preschool wearing glasses.
She said she is grateful to the NICU staff for their care during her boys’ precarious first months.
“The staff here loved our babies as if they were their own,” she said. “After months with tubes in their mouths, IVs in their legs, and their eyes taped closed, they came out of the NICU not as if they’d come out of a war but as if they had been wrapped in their mother’s and father’s arms.”