Helenius family learns it’s little things that mean a lotLittle things have taken on big significance for Jennifer and Neil Helenius. A touch, a song, a test passed, an ounce gained, each means a step in the development of their twin daughters, who were born three-and-a-half months early.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Little things have taken on big significance for Jennifer and Neil Helenius. A touch, a song, a test passed, an ounce gained, each means a step in the development of their twin daughters, who were born three-and-a-half months early.
“Every day and week that goes by it gets better and better,” said Robin Deshayes, principal of Northern Lights School, where Jennifer teaches second grade.
The tiny girls, known as micro-preemies, were born April 7 at 25 weeks. Henleigh was half an inch longer than a ruler (12.5 inches) and weighed one pound, 10 ounces. Her identical twin, Holland, measured 13 inches and outweighed her sister by two ounces.
Holland was flown down to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis immediately due to health concerns. Henleigh was sent down three days later when a possible heart issue was detected. By the time she got down to the hospital, there was no sign of the problem.
“The twins wanted to be together,” said Julie Milroy, Jennifer’s twin sister. “I know the importance of closeness and wanting to be together.”
As of Tuesday, the tiny twins had nearly doubled in weight — Henleigh is now two pounds, 13 ounces; Holland weighs two pounds, eight and a half ounces. The girls continue to make gains with the aid of surgeries, light therapy, IVs and breathing support ranging from ventilators to nasal cannula. Their parents keep track of each step in an upbeat journal through the CaringBridge Web site, www.
“It’s amazing how much you can love someone when you only just met,” the couple wrote in their postings. “It’s amazing how the little things are such big things to be thankful for.”
Three weeks after Holland was born, Jennifer finally held her daughter. Eight days later, she held Henleigh for the first time. Pictures on the CaringBridge site capture her smile as she holds the small girls.
“She’s just a wonderful person,” said fellow teacher Susan Voght. “Caring, considerate, lots of fun.”
“Neil and Jennifer are phenomenal,” Milroy said.
The couple travels down to Minneapolis as often as possible, considering they also have a 2 1/2-year-old son, Hudsen.
Monday, Jennifer brought Milroy, her mother and her sister Angie along. They serenaded the twins with “Baby Mine,” the lullaby from “Dumbo.”
Tuesday, Neil and Jennifer were surprised to see their twin girls wearing clothes for the first time.
Although the family has good insurance, both parents have taken time off from work to be with the twins and travel expenses are steep. The Northern Lights community has teamed up with local businesses to throw a spaghetti dinner benefit for the family Tuesday.
“Northern Lights is such a community, such a family, it’s unbelievable,” Milroy said.
The benefit runs 4-7 p.m. in the Superior High School cafeteria and includes a silent auction, bake sale and raffles. There will even be live music by The Merry Little Band. Suggested donations are $10 for adults, $5 for children.
“We’ve just had tons of businesses donating,” Deshayes said.
“It’s great to see we live in that kind of community,” Voght added.
Milroy invited everyone to stop by to enjoy some spaghetti and help a family in need.
“I just know that they would do the same thing for anybody else,” Milroy said.
Jennifer’s students haven’t forgotten about her. One, 8-year-old Jakob Ely, even signed her Caringbridge guestbook.
“dear Mrs. Helenius, I am happy that your babies are doing good,” he wrote. “I’m coming to the spaghetti dinner. I miss you.”
Jennifer will return to Northern Lights and the class she team-teaches with her twin sister Monday.
“It’s a nice closure for the kids and for me,” Milroy said. “It’s like half of me is missing.”
She knows her sister can make it through these final weeks, despite the distance that separates the new mother from her little daughters.
“The kids are excited,” Milroy said, but “This isn’t where her heart is.”
Donations can also be made at Superior Community Credit Union to the Helenius Family Benefit account or sent to Northern Lights, 1201 N. 28th St., Superior, WI 54880, attention Krista Nosan.