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Baby Shannon Ivarson needed a hero when she entered the world at Stanford Hospital.
Born in 1981 at just 29 weeks gestation, she faced apnea, a mild brain hemorrhage, and a double hernia, requiring surgery and a lengthy hospital stay.
Fortunately, Shannon was in good hands. Renowned neonatologist Philip Sunshine, MD, provided the special attention that she needed to start life on the right foot. She thrived.
Fast-forward to 2013—Shannon gave birth to twins Nolan and Whitney. The family marveled over the coincidences: just like Shannon, the twins were born on the Tuesday afternoon of the pregnancy’s 29th week. Just like mom, Nolan faced health challenges from the start.
And, just like their mother, the twins would be treated by a familiar face during their long stay at Packard Children’s—Dr. Sunshine.
“My dad recognized his name first—it is pretty unique!” Shannon says. “We were already amazed at all of the parallels of the births, but this one was such an amazing coincidence.”
Born with two separate esophageal defects, Nolan was immediately transported to our neonatal intensive care unit. He had his first surgery at just 3 days old. In order for Nolan to “graduate” from the NICU to our intermediate care nursery, he would need to prove to his care team that he could breathe on his own.
Taken off oxygen for the first time since he was born, Nolan’s oxygenation level barely reached 85 percent. Not good enough.
As it turned out, Nolan just needed his lucky charm—his twin sister, Whitney.
As soon as the two were reunited, Nolan’s breathing improved and his oxygen level soared.
“We were so excited to see Nolan out of the NICU,” recalls Shannon’s wife, Christine Burgos. “It was a big step toward bringing our babies home.”
Over the years, Nolan has undergone an additional surgery for a tethered spinal cord, and continues regular visits to our hospital with Whitney always by his side.
Today, Nolan and Whitney are happy preschoolers and “frenemies” (according to Christine) who love ice cream and going to the park.
Shannon adds, “It was a comfort to know from the start that we were getting the best care here. Dr. Sunshine is a pioneer of neonatology and I feel extremely blessed that he had cared for me and then cared for my twins.”
This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Lucile Packard Children's News.