Twins celebrate birthday, 18 years after being born prematurely

On July 31, Aleena and Trinity McCormick will be celebrating their 18th birthday.

However, 18 years ago, their lives were in jeopardy after being born prematurely.

In the summer of 2003, Leah McCormick, who currently teaches American Sign Language at Montessori Mastery School of Odessa, was expecting to give birth to her twin daughters in the next couple of months.

But complications soon forced her daughters to be born early at 28 weeks.

What would follow would be a stressful and worrisome time for Leah, her husband Scott McCormick and the rest of their family.

After being born, Aleena and Trinity had to remain at Medical Center Hospital where they were placed in NICU.

“It was very stressful. I remember when the doctors released me from the hospital and the girls were born, and I had to come home without my babies,” Leah said. “I cried. I cried for a long time because it felt so unnatural for me to come home without my babies.”

Trinity would soon get severely ill.

Two weeks after she was born, Trinity developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis (or NEC), which is a gastrointestinal disease that involves infection and inflammation that causes damage and the death of cells in some or all of the intestine.

Trinity was transported to Covenant Children’s Medical Hospital in Lubbock from Medical Center.

“They had to put her on antibiotics and they kept her on antibiotics for approximately 30 days,” Leah said. “(After that), she still was not over it so they called Covenant Children’s Medical Hospital in Lubbock.”

The news of Trinity’s condition became too much for the McCormicks.

“When they told me that NEC was very dangerous and it could make her intestines die and be fatal to her, I immediately started bawling,” Leah said. “I was so scared. I called my mother in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and she and I cried together over the phone and immediately started praying. I was still going in every day to check on her to see what was going on. My husband Scott was still here with me and we would both go in and check on them and we would have to wait.”

Aleena remained at MCH while Trinity was at Children’s Medical Hospital in Lubbock. It was now September at this point.

Leah and her grandmother drove to Lubbock and stayed at the Ronald McDonald House.
A week later, on Sept. 25, Aleena was finally released from MCH and the family would soon be reunited in Lubbock.

Complications would continue in the early months for Aleena, however.

“When she came home from the hospital, we drove her up to Lubbock, we noticed that every single time that we fed Aleena that she would choke and not be able to breathe,” Leah said. “Something was stuck in her throat. We would have to suction her throat out. We believed it was acid reflux, but the doctors could never diagnose her because they never could figure out what was stuck in her throat. Every time they looked, there was nothing there. We just continually put her on her side and sucked her throat out after every meal until she stopped doing that which was about until she was a year old.”

Because of her illness, Trinity would soon have to go through surgery in October 2003.

“They had to remove part of her large intestine and reconnect the intestine back to the colon because that part of her intestine had died,” Leah said. “It wasn’t going to start working again.”

Trinity would get released in early November.

In time, Aleena and Trinity gradually get healthier.

“Aleena started sitting up and using her back and stomach muscles pretty quick, like around 6 months old,” Leah said. “Trinity did not start using her stomach muscles and back muscles until she was about 10 months old. We had to really work with Trinity because she was so far delayed on everything.”

The McCormicks were at the Ronald McDonald House for two months. They were grateful for the support, saying that if it weren’t for the hospital, the Children’s Miracle Network and Ronald McDonald House, they wouldn’t have their girls today.

“The Children’s Miracle Network helped buy all the equipment that was in the NICU unit,” Leah said. “I know they’re a big part of supporting the NICU unit and the premature babies and getting them the things that they need. For the parents, they offered counseling and offered somebody to just come in and talk to. I was grateful for the support that they offered at Medical Center Hospital through Children’s Miracle Network. All of the doctors and nurses were very nice. We didn’t find one doctor or one nurse that was rude. Everyone was just really nice and very emotionally supportive. They understood where we were coming from. They also knew the babies were their first priority.”

It was the same way at Covenant Children’s Medical Center in Lubbock while Trinity was undergoing surgery.

“When Trinity had to go through her surgery at three months old, they gave us a privacy room at the hospital and it was a Ronald McDonald room,” Leah said. “We had 10 to 15 different family members with us and we all sat in that room and prayed and loved on Aleena because she was the only one with us until Trinity came out of surgery. The hospital allowed us to stay and they knew right where to find us for any news. It was very emotionally supportive. It was very wonderful. If it wasn’t for the hospital or the Children’s Miracle Network, they wouldn’t have a NICU unit or the equipment needed.”

Both Aleena and Trinity would go through all the different physical and occupational therapies until they were 4 years old with the Early Childhood Intervention Program.
By kindergarten, Leah said they were running around like normal.

“They went to school and came home and grew up strong,” Leah said.

Aleena would have to go through back surgery at 16 due to a tethered spinal cord.

“The roles kind of reversed a little,” Aleena said. “Trinity, when she was little, she was always getting sick. Then the roles reversed and I was always getting sick and having problems. It was like, I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t have surgery. There was never anything wrong with me. Then they told me I had only 50 percent of my lung capacity and a tethered spinal cord and that I’d have to have surgery. Knowing that, it was an eye-opener.”

The McCormicks have a third daughter, Mackenzie Guzman, who is the same age and was adopted in 2017 and graduated from Permian High School this year, a year early.

Aleena is taking GED classes and will graduate a year before high school is over with and Trinity has one more semester left at Permian.

“None of them were supposed to graduate until next year,” Leah said. “They all have plans to go to Odessa College. They all three have futures planned and I’m very grateful that they have that ambition and that they’re thriving.”

Trinity says she is nothing without her siblings. While she and Aleena are technically twins, she views her as the older sister.

“I’ve always been smaller than Aleena,” Trinity said. “We’re twins, but she’s one minute older than me so she’s always been my older sister. … My sisters take care of me and make sure I’m doing alright.”

As Leah reflects back from what happened 18 years ago, she’s thankful for her family and that her girls survived and thrived.

“I just want to say that I’m so grateful to God for allowing my girls to live and survive and stay with me for the last 18 years,” Leah said. “I’m very grateful that he gave me the chance to be their mother.”