This article was first published in Preemie Babies 101 - Hand to Hold in May 2014.
Meet Matt and Tracy Regusci. The Regusci’s are servant leaders in their Central California beach town. They are on the committee for a local nonprofit foster and adoption group called Project Zero whose mission is to have zero orphan children one day. It is through Project Zero that Matt and Tracy first heard of an urgent need to adopt twin 25-week gestation micro-preemies from Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, California.
It’s also what eventually led them to Hand to Hold.
David and Jonathan were born on February 9, 2012 and are of 100% Chinese descent. David had an extremely hard time at birth that included ten minutes of CPR and three attempts to ventilate before stabilizing him. He was in the NICU for 119 days, had several blood transfusions, a grade 1 bilateral bleed, PDA, laser eye surgery for ROP, and spent four weeks on a vent. His twin Jonathan was in the NICU for 131 days and had seven blood transfusions, a grade 1 bilateral brain bleed, PDA, laser surgery in both eyes for ROP and struggled to get off the vent. The twins’ birth parents knew after the first month that they were unable to care for these special needs twins and put them up for adoption through Family Connections Christian Adoptions.
When Matt and Tracy first heard of the two tiny boys in the NICU, they had four young children at home: Sam (now age 11; adopted), Serafina (now age 8; biological), Matteo (now age 6; biological) and A.J. (now age 4; biological). Sam, their first adopted son, came to them at age 3, struggled with attachment issues, and had speech and occupational therapy. They became even more familiar with this path because their son A.J. had sensory issues and a speech delay. This personal experience and their leadership with Project Zero meant they were well-versed in attachment issues and developmental delays. Still, Matt had reservations.
After inquiring to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center about David and Jonathan, Matt and Tracy were invited to meet with NICU Director Dr. Stephen Van Scoy, several nurses, a social worker, and a respiratory therapist to discuss the twins’ unique needs. The team, along with Matt and Tracy, sat down in front of two isolettes with David and Jonathan still on oxygen and feeding tubes. The boys were three months old already. The support staff outlined the history of the twins and the risks associated with 25-week gestation preemies. Matt and Tracy were well informed of the potential complications.
It was in that moment that they knew they were there for a purpose.
On that visit, Matt asked to hold one of the twins, and Jonathan was taken from his isolette and laid on Matt’s chest. A few moments later Matt replied, “Ok, we can adopt them!” Leaving the NICU that afternoon, Matt and Tracy walked silently down the hallway and stepped into the elevator. One of Tracy’s most fond moments was Matt breaking the silence by saying, “Well, you know I could tummy pack one of the twins while I work…”
Matt and Tracy soon found themselves with four young children at home and two children in the NICU. They’d entered a new world called NICU that they knew nothing about and had to search online for what it all meant. It was through one of Tracy’s searches that she found Hand to Hold, specifically “Life After NICU” and the resources available for NICU families.
It is through those resources that they learned how to cope.
David came home first, three weeks after adoption. Jonathan came home two weeks after David. Matt and Tracy had been through adoption before and knew what attachment disorders looked like if children were not being held. The staff at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center was incredible and in addition to their dedication and love, a cuddler named Louie came in every night to spend time holding David and Jonathan. This dedication to the twins’ needs helped ensure that they would not have attachment disorders.
It is through those experiences that they realized the power of the NICU.
The twins turned two years old on February 9th. David is the lover; he wants to be held and cuddled all of the time. He is also the more intellectual one that enjoys tiny manipulative toys and spends his time learning. He’s always busy developing his brain. Although David was the last to sit up and crawl, he was the first to talk and he’s always processing his surroundings. Jonathan is the reserved one. He’s the independent one. Despite being the twin with the greatest concern of developing cerebral palsy, Jonathan developed his gross motor skills first. He’s the most physically active. Jonathan loves cars, trains, and sticks and must have one in his hand at all times. Their personalities haven’t changed much from the NICU. Early on, Matt and Tracy brought a blanket with squares for David; quite fitting for his “square” personality, having everything in the right place. Jonathon’s blanket had circles; true to his more “circular”, go-with-the-flow personality that doesn’t care where things go or how they’re done – that’s just how he does it.
True miracle babies; both caught up physically with minimal early intervention therapies. Looking at them, you’d never know they were 25-week gestation preemies with a difficult medical history.
And it was in these milestones that they realized how much they had won.
When they discovered that Hand to Hold was having a contest that would allow the winner to give a $5,000 prize package to their NICU of choice, Matt and Tracy saw an opportunity to give back to the NICU that gave them so much.
You see, Matt and Tracy Regusci are winners; they won the NICU race. Hand to Hold is a winner; with the help of fundraisers like the Regusci’s, they raised several thousand dollars. And, Matt and Tracy’s NICU – Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, California – they’re winners, too; they received gratitude in the form of a prize package to help their NICU continue to be a place that houses miracles.
But the true winners? I’d venture to say it’s those boys.