Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune scores big with triplets

5 Jun 2002 | Sgt. Andrew D. Pomykal

"It's a girl ... times three!"
Naval Hospital officials here reported Sunday morning that triplets were born bringing a local Marine family's total to five.  This is only the second time in 15 years that triplets were born at the facility here. For now, the family wishes to remain anonymous.

Officials said the birth took a coordinated effort by more than 25 medical professionals from many of the hospital's departments.

In anticipation of the multiple births, the hospital's 625-sq. ft. nursery was outfitted with additional equipment. Three identical sets of pulmonary monitors, ventilators and warmers were added.

"Tiny babies are obviously going to require more technical support," said Lt. Cmdr. Susan M. Demchak, head of the Obstetrics and Gynecological Department here. "The very nature of obstetrics is unpredictable and even a normal delivery can develop complications quickly."

Because of the birth's rarity, hospital officials took necessary precautions and the doctors here closely monitored fetus development. Officials said the babies were born late in their second trimester, but well short of the normal 40-week gestational period.

Specific information regarding birth weight or condition of the trio was not released at the family's request. At press time, the infants are being cared for at the University of North Carolina's Medical Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. The mother said the babies are "doing well."

"Premature babies are at a greater risk due to their development and infection is always a possibility," said Cmdr. Joseph McBreen of Spirit Lake, Iowa. MaBreen, who heads the Pediatric Department here, oversees about 130 births a month.

The Pediatric Department's 1st Lt. Allison Martz said attending staff worked for more than 18 hours and it seemed nobody wanted to leave.

"The dedication of the staff here is amazing. Their collective heart and soul was in the whole thing," the Pittsburgh native said. "I had to tell people to go home, but a lot of them called back to see how the babies were doing. We gave the best care possible and everyone should be proud of his or her efforts."

In 2000, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported only 6,742 triplet births. However, a recent increase in higher order, multiple births (triplets, quadruplets, and quintuplets) mirrors the use of fertility and ovulation enhancing drugs and assisted reproductive techniques.

According to Demchak, the mother of the Lejeune triplets took Clomiphene, a common ovulation adjustment agent. She said the couple was counseled regarding the risks associated with the drug.