Twins 12 Days Apart Have Month-Long Birthday Celebrations

By Katrina Dupins

They were waiting on word that their twin sons, Julio and Jacob, born weeks early, were healthy enough to bring home.

On the wall, each picture features a healthy, happy child who spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

“It always gave us so much hope,” Diana Villarreal said. “It was reassuring to see those smiles and how small they started out. It let me know that everything was going to be fine and that my babies were in good hands.”

newborn photo

Julio Villarreal holds his twins in the UAMS NICU.

Not only had Julio and Jacob surprised their parents with an early arrival, they decided they each wanted their own birthday.

Diana Villarreal was 27 weeks pregnant when her water broke. Her Conway doctor said it would be better for the twins to be born at UAMS because the NICU is better equipped to take care of babies that premature.

Julio Villarreal rushed to Conway from his job in Little Rock when he received the call.

“I was freaking out,” he said. “We weren’t expecting them for another month. As soon as I arrived, we had to turn right around to go back to Little Rock.”

That back-and-forth exercise for Julio Villarreal was a foreshadowing of the next two weeks. Little Julio was born Feb. 1, 2015, weighing 2 lbs, 7 oz.

Villarreal family

The twins pose with their parents, Diana and Julio, and their 2-year-old sister, Samantha.

The UAMS team of obstetricians and gynecologists decided that since the other baby’s water had not yet broken, it would be best for him to remain in the womb as long as possible.

“What’s great about UAMS is we are prepared to take care of infants from the earliest gestational ages,” said Nirvana Manning, M.D., an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Manning and other doctors, nurses and health care professionals worked around the clock to make sure Villarreal and her unborn son received the best state of the art care.

“We were keeping an eye on a variety of things,” Manning said. “With the birth of the first baby,  it introduces the more bacteria  into the uterus. In addition, the placenta from the first baby was still in the uterus so there was the risk of infection from that as well. Still, the safest place for the baby was inside mom for as long as he would stay.”

Manning says she has seen delayed births between twins only a handful of times during her career.

“With the expertise and technology offered at UAMS, it’s wonderful that we can offer a level of care that allows each baby to mature as much as possible,” Manning said.

Birthday picture

The family has weeks of birthday celebrations.

Diana Villarreal remembers different and distinct emotions during that time, but she remained comfortable for the most part.

“I was happy because we had one son, anxious to meet the other,” she said. “Different emotions every day, every hour.”

Meanwhile, Julio Villarreal split his time between the NICU and his wife’s hospital room.

“I remember feeling stressed,” he said. “I wanted to be with my son, but I also wanted to be with my wife. I kept going back and forth from the NICU to her room all day long.”

On day 12, Diana Villarreal had a fever. Doctors suspected an infection and decided it was time to deliver the second baby. Jacob was born Feb. 13 also weighing 2 lbs, 10 oz. He stayed in the NICU 15 weeks. His brother was in the NICU for 12 weeks.

“After Julio went home, we still went to visit Jacob often,” the twins’ father said. “It was very sweet the day we were able to have them both at home.”

The month of February has become an eventful time for the Villarreal family.

Wall of Hope

The Villarreal twins are featured on the Wall of Hope in the UAMS NICU.

“We celebrate all month long,” Diana Villarreal said. “We celebrate Julio on his birthday and Jacob on his birthday with just our immediate family. Then after Jacob’s birthday, we have a larger gathering with cousins, extended family and friends.”

Today the Villarreal twins are among the faces on the Wall of Hope in the UAMS NICU. Their smiles offer inspiration to families as they look forward to the day their babies are healthy enough to go home.