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Born at Just 23 Weeks, These Twins Have Grown from Tiny to Mighty

When D.J. and CharliAngel came into the world 23 weeks into Courtney’s pregnancy, she had little idea of what lay ahead. She likens being the parent of micro-preemies to experiencing a constant state of “fight or flight” or perhaps being on a roller coaster blindfolded.

“Your lows are really low, but your highs are really high,” Courtney said. “It may give you flutters to go down into the dips, but we just keep seeking the thrill of the high points and that gets us through.”

While Charli was able to come home from the hospital at 6 months old, D.J. spent 458 days there. He had a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a persistent opening between the two major blood vessels leading from the heart that happens most often in premature infants, that required surgery to close. He also has Pulmonary vein stenosis (PVS), a rare cardiovascular condition in which oxygenated blood from the lungs cannot easily return to the left side of the heart to be pumped out into the body. He is trach/vent dependent.

D.J. receives treatment at the Children’s PVS Program, and Christopher Petit, MD is his pediatric cardiologist. The whole PVS Program team has become fond of D.J., who is remarkably hitting milestones everyone wondered if he would reach and is described by his mom as “a charmer.”

The whole team at Sibley, including our Nurse Clinical Coordinator. Rosemary, is very kind and attentive,” said Courtney, who is a nurse herself at another hospital. “A true joy exudes from D.J. and his sister. We love Dr. Petit because of his gentle demeanor with D.J., his kind words and even just his willingness to be very upfront with us. He has helped us understand what’s going on with D.J., and his approach has instilled great trust in us and made it easier to cope.”

While D.J. was in the hospital for more than a year, Courtney and her husband Dwamelle (D.J. is formally “Dwamelle Junior”) continued to work full-time while they cared for their babies, Dwamelle as a cybersecurity engineer and now RN and Courtney as an RN. They made sure Charli visited her brother nearly every day, and since he’s been home, they have become even closer, coming to each other for kisses and hugs. Courtney says they are the “sweetest little baby birds ever.” Mom and Dad work together on everything from weaning D.J. off his vent to encouraging him to learn to love eating. Small steps are celebrated and given thanks for. The couple leans heavily on their family and faith to keep fighting for D.J., who inspires them with his own strength and will.

“The tiniest people have grown into the mightiest people,” Courtney said.

For more information about Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.

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