The entrance into the world of identical twins Elizabeth Lynn and Makeylah Rae McCaskey was something of a modern-day miracle on Christmas Day 2009.
But it had — and continues to have — its challenges.
Their mother, Kristin, became sick at home during a 2009 family Christmas gathering and was taken to the St. Elizabeth Health Center emergency room, where it was discovered she was having a heart attack.
It was a true life-and-death situation for Kristin and the twins, with whom she was 32 weeks pregnant.
The girls were delivered in the emergency room via cesarean section, after which Kristin underwent triple-bypass heart surgery.
Elizabeth Lynn and Makeylah Rae, who weighed 3 pounds, 4 ounces and 2 pounds, 13 ounces, respectively, would spend the next five weeks in the hospital.
Fast-forward three years.
Kristin, 27, and her husband, Shane, 26, say they are thankful and blessed. The twins are doing fine, and the condition of Kristin’s heart continues to improve.
Elizabeth Lynn and Makeylah Rae like books, and they get a kick out of playing the old name-switcheroo on their parents.
“They giggle while we are trying to get them to tell us who is who. But, their earrings are always different,” said their mother with a laugh.
It probably won’t be long until the twins think of switching earrings, too, however.
Over the past three years, the condition of Kristin’s heart has steadily, if slowly, improved.
She has progressed to wearing an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a device placed in the chest or abdomen to help treat irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias, which can be life-threatening.
A recent stress test revealed that her heart ejection faction, the amount of blood it pumps with each beat, is 41 percent, compared with 10 percent when she had surgery. Normal is 50 percent to 70 percent, Kristin said.
But, getting their minds around dealing emotionally with the events of three years ago continues to be a process.
On Christmas Day 2010, the first anniversary of the twins’ births, memories of Christmas Day 2009 made them “jittery,” Kristin and Shane said.
“It was real hard until we got past 7:30 p.m. We breathed a sigh of relief. I tried not to cry,” Kristin said.
She went to the hospital at 7:30 that night, and the twins were born an hour later.
The McCaskeys, who also have a son, 5-year-old Landon, have the usual chore of balancing work and play and being parents, which becomes even more hectic at Christmas.
But the harrowing night of the twins’ births and their mother’s heart attack, while still fresh in their minds, has become easier to handle with time.
“You don’t forget it, but it is one of those things you become accustomed to and get past. It’s something you get through,” said Shane, who, with Landon, retreats to the garage periodically to work together on cars and 4-wheelers.
“That’s called daddy getting away from crying time. We have a father-son thing. It’s our personal time,” he said.
“On the personal side, I had to stop living my whole life around what happened that night ... to accept and live life. My kids are great, and my wife is getting better,” said Shane, a diesel mechanic for Associated Truck Services in North Lima.
“We are very lucky to have a strong family and friends standing behind us,” he added.
“We get excited for Christmas, and the twins understand it is their birthday,” Kristin said.
“My whole life was turned upside down by the heart attack, but here I sit taking care of my kids and husband and Mercedes, our dog. I am blessed.”