Triplets beat the odds

February 19, 2001

Triplets beat the odds


photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Herman FamilyCLEAR SPRING - Vicki and Rusty Herman call them their "miracle babies."


Triplets Grace, Faith and Charity Herman were given a 30 percent chance of survival and were expected to have developmental disabilities when they were born 15 weeks early at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Feb. 3, 2000.

The perfectly healthy babies celebrated their first birthdays this month with their parents and older siblings in their Clear Spring home.

"We've been extremely blessed," said Vicki Herman, 35.

"God is good," said her husband, who is a Maryland State Police trooper.

It was the Hermans' strong faith, a steadfast support group and excellent medical care that got them through the roller coaster pregnancy, delivery and post delivery period that they call the "fearful journey."


Vicki Herman was bombarded with bad news from the moment she learned she was pregnant with triplets. She didn't allow herself to experience the joy of expectant motherhood because she was afraid to believe that her babies would live to come home, she said.

Looking back, Herman wishes that she had had more positive resources to buoy her during the months she spent bedridden and afraid.

She hopes that her story will bring such hope to other women facing multiple births and/or difficult pregnancies, she said.

"You just have to try to stay positive through it," Herman said.

After giving birth to Russell, now 6, and Renae, 4, Vicki Herman wanted to have a third child before she turned 35, she said.

In September 1999, she found out she was pregnant. Within three months, she looked as pregnant as she did during the seventh month of her previous pregnancy, her husband said.

She didn't want to consider the possibility of more than one child. She'd recently watched a friend cope with the premature birth and death of her triplets, Herman said.

The Hermans were stunned when an ultrasound performed during Vicki's 12th week of pregnancy detected three separate heartbeats. The couple had not used fertility drugs and Vicki Herman has no history of multiple births in her family.

"My husband was in shock and I wasn't sure how to react," Vicki Herman said. "I was really scared."

Vicki's doctor suggested aborting one of the fetuses to give the other two a better chance of survival, she said. The Hermans said "no."

When she was 16 weeks pregnant, Vicki Herman was sent to Johns Hopkins Hospital so doctors there could familiarize themselves with her case. Hopkins, which features a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit, is the only hospital in the region equipped to deal with such high-order births, the Hermans said.

Vicki Herman was told to stay in bed at all times except for bathroom and doctor visits.

That's when fellow congregation members from Gateway Ministries stepped in to help. Every day, they brought meals for the family and cared for Russell and Renae. They cleaned the Hermans' home. They prayed for the health of the Herman triplets.

"If it wasn't for them I think I would've fallen apart," Vicki Herman said.

Nearly 24 weeks into her pregnancy, it appeared she was going into labor.

Herman was rushed to Hopkins, where she was given steroid shots to help with her babies' lung development and magnesium sulfate to help stop her contractions, she said.

The magnesium nauseated Herman, but it was crucial for her to carry the babies as long as possible.

Between 24 and 26 weeks of gestation, a baby's chance of survival increases by about 3 percent each day that the baby remains within the womb, according to the Web site.

The Hermans were assured that a team of neonatal specialists were ready for action, but the couple was also prepared for the worst, Vicki Herman said.

"The doctors were realistic," she said. "They had to prepare us for not a good outcome."

Friends and pastors from their church comforted the couple during daily visits. Vicki Herman made it through seven more days before going into labor. It was long enough for the steroids to work.

Faith was born first naturally, weighing in at 1 pound, 9 ounces. Grace's heart rate dropped and she was delivered by Caesarean section 17 minutes later, weighing in at 1 pound, 8 ounces. Charity, at 1 pound, 9 3/4 ounces, immediately followed.

The tiny babies were dwarfed by their palm-sized diapers, and their skin was so thin that their blood vessels were visible, but the doctors were impressed by the infants' good color and strong heartbeats, Rusty Herman said.

Developmental disabilities were possible, but for the first time the Hermans allowed themselves to be cautiously optimistic, they said.

The frail triplets fought infections and grew stronger during the three months they spent in a special unit for preemies at Hopkins. When the infants were transferred to a neonatal unit in Frederick, Md., Vicki Herman was finally convinced that she would be bringing her babies home.

She's spent the last nine months coming to terms with the emotions that she suppressed during her difficult pregnancy, and loving the three babies who defied all the odds.

"I just want other women and families to know that it can be a real happy experience," she said.

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