“My children, Daniel and Hannah, were born 14 weeks premature,” Erickson explained. “The doctor told me that there was little to no chance of survival at that stage of pregnancy.”
According to Erickson, she and her then husband were also informed that survival for the twins meant a long, hard road almost certain to end in the life-long care of two children with devastating disabilities.
The twins were born on April 24, 1994. Hannah weighed in first at 2 pounds, 1 ounce. Daniel arrived 18 minutes later at 2 pounds, 3 ounces.
While Daniel experienced the usual premature baby issues, it was clear that Hannah was very sick.
“It was on day eight that things changed drastically,” Erickson explained. “My husband and I received a phone call that Hannah would be flown by LifeForce to the University of Tennessee.”
The young parents scrubbed in at the new hospital and checked on their daughter.
“Hannah was laying in the incubator and her skin was gray. She was swelled beyond recognition,” Erickson recalled. “Only the tip of her nose was defined in her face. From head to toe she had tubes connected to her body.”
Hannah had developed necrotizing enterocolitis. This meant that her intestines had become infected and had the potential to deteriorate.
“Before the doctors left they said, ‘We are sorry but there is no hope,’” Erickson said. “Immediately after, a nurse came up to us and introduced herself. She said, ‘Hi, I am Hannah’s primary nurse and I will be taking good care of her for you. My name is Hope.’”
Erickson’s mother, Patsy Humberd, had a strong reaction to the introduction.
“It was a holy moment,” Humberd explained. “It gave me cold chills.”
Erickson and Humberd spent many sleepless nights traveling between Knoxville and Chattanooga to see both babies.
“In the summer the air can get really cool at night,” Humberd said. “When we were driving between the babies we would stick our heads out the window to stay awake.”
Respite came three weeks into Hannah’s stay at Knoxville. It was decided by the doctors that Daniel would join his “wombmate.”
“Daniel got to take a helicopter ride to Knoxville and we called the Ronald McDonald house our home for those months,” Erickson recalls.
Hannah received 27 blood transfusions within the first six weeks of her life. Erickson and Humberd felt emotionally and physically exhausted.
“The smell of the hospital makes you sick,” Erickson recalled. “We would go into the hospital and that smell would get me.”
“What gets me is the beeping and dinging,” Humberd added. “Babies’ hearts stop and the beeping begins; their oxygen gets low and the machines start to go off.”
Erickson is haunted by another memory.
“It was death. Death was all around us and for some reason Hannah made it,” Erickson said. “I’m sure other parents were praying, as well, but God really answered our prayers. You don’t know why one child makes it and others don’t.”
Erickson and Humberd experienced all levels of emotions while at the hospital.
“It was just nerves,” Humberd added.
“You did not know how to feel or how you would feel at any moment,” Erickson explained. “It was just a roller coaster of emotion.”
The parents were informed on Father’s Day that Hannah would require eye surgery immediately.
“Hannah had developed stage 4 retinopathy of prematurity which is partial retinal detachment,” Erickson explained. “We were told that what vision had been lost would never return.”
Erickson said she and her then husband were heartbroken for her, but thankful she would be alive.
Hannah was placed on a morphine drip following the surgery.
“Hannah had been on morphine for three weeks while she was on life support and had been just fine,” Erickson recalled. “This time she immediately went into cardiac arrest before our eyes.”
According to Erickson, the hospital staff had to act so quickly that a cabinet containing the needed medicine had to be broken into.
“The nurses were too busy saving Hannah’s life to shoo us out of the room,” Erickson said. “The person with the key for the cabinet did not arrive quick enough so they broke through the glass.”
The twins' parents were approached by Hannah’s doctor a month after the surgery.
“We saw him almost daily on his rounds, but this day he looked different,” Erickson explained. “He said, ‘You know, as doctors we are taught not to say miracle. We believe and have to rely on science, but I have no other word for this except ‘miracle.’”
X-rays revealed that Hannah’s intestines had not only been naturally rerouted, but there was new intestine tissue, as well.
“A year later, I took Hannah to the eye doctor and he asked his staff member if she had brought him the right chart,” Erickson said. “He looked at me and said, ‘This baby could not have had ROP stage 4. There is no evidence of any loss of vision whatsoever.’”
On the day Hannah was released she weighed a healthy 8 pounds, 2 ounces. Daniel and Hannah did not experience any more health issues.
“We kind of thought Hannah wasn’t growing right, but you should see them now,” Erickson said. “She was just going to be little. She is 4-11 and Daniel is up there at 6-1.”
The height difference has led to some memorable moments.
“One time when the twins were 2 1/2 they wandered off during a church meeting,” Humberd recalled. “We found them by the water fountain. Daniel was on his hands and knees and Hannah was on his back getting some water.”
The twins will be ending their junior year of high school this spring. Both are looking forward to the future.
“Hannah enjoys learning new languages,” Erickson said. “She is taking Spanish and French at school, and will be taking Italian and sign language. She talked about learning Arabic, as well.”
“Oh my goodness,” Humberd said.
Daniel is making the most of life, as well.
“Daniel has been a part of the Bradley football team, and he enjoys playing on his guitar,” Erickson explained.
“Right now he is not sure what he wants to do,” Humberd added.
“Actually, Daniel has decided to go into medicine,” Erickson said. “Hannah has talked about interpreting at hospitals, as well.”
After receiving so much good at the hands of the doctors years earlier, it seems the two may be ready to give back.
Humberd added, "It wasn't our great faith but it was our faith in a great God that made the difference."