When a Columbus couple tell their identical twin boys the story of their 2017 births, it probably will include the word miracle.
Todd and Danielle Rohm will celebrate Christmas with their 4-month-old twins, Cooper and Conner, after surviving a roller coaster of medical twists and turns that led to the boys’ caesarean section delivery Aug. 21 in Indianapolis. That was one day earlier than scheduled and, oddly enough, the day of the total eclipse.
Such a solar eclipse doesn’t come every day. It had been 99 years since Americans had a chance to view a coast-to-coast solar eclipse, and they lined streets and roads across the country to do so.
People were also lined up for the Rohm boys’ birth. Todd Rohm stopped counting when he got to 22 heads in the operating room with he and his wife, also due to unusual circumstances. The crowd size increased by two at IU Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis when Cooper arrived at 4 pounds, 3 ounces at 9:50 a.m. and Connor at 4 pounds, 12 ounces about two minutes later.
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The medical staffing included an entire medical team for each baby, multiple caregivers assigned to each baby, and a cardiac team for Danielle Rohm if it were to be needed during the surgery.
The parents and children all came through the delivery unscathed, but their journey to delivery day contained uncertain moments, starting with the Rohms’ decision to try to have a baby.
Todd and Danielle grew up in Columbus, with Danielle Ebel attending and graduating from Columbus North High School in 2004. Her future husband had gone to Columbus East High School and graduated a year earlier.
They didn’t meet until long after high school, when a friend made several attempts to set them up. Danielle jokes that when looking Todd up on Facebook, she discovered they had 40-some mutual friends, and agreed to a first date.
Before their Oct. 6, 2014, wedding, the two had discussed a heart condition that Danielle was born with, transposition of the great arteries. That means her aorta is connected to the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery is connected to the left ventricle — the opposite of a normal heart’s anatomy.
After her birth in 1985, she had what is called the Mustard procedure, an operation named for the surgeon — William Mustard of Toronto, Ontario — who first performed it. In that open-heart surgery, an atrial switch procedure is done, creating a two-way baffle in the top part of her heart.
Danielle has dealt with symptoms of the cardiac disorder throughout her life, which can include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pains and moments when she might pass out.
There were risks of having a baby, at least one cardiologist initially told her.
“I was told that kids weren’t an option,” she said, as the doctor believed the strain of pregnancy and delivery could push her into heart failure.
But Danielle, who is an X-ray technician at an immediate-care center in Shelbyville, read on social media about other patients with the same heart condition who were cleared to have children. She eventually connected with a cardiologist in Chicago who specializes in the field, who told the Rohms there was absolutely no reason they couldn’t have a baby.
In early January, they found out Danielle was pregnant. With her first appointment, she was referred to specialists in Indianapolis for high-risk fetal cases. The first ultrasound showed one little heartbeat beating and the couple decided to not tell anyone until they were through the first trimester.
But in the 13th week ultrasound, as soon as the technician began the scan, she began to laugh, Danielle said.
“She saw the tops of their heads,” she said. “And Todd asked, ‘What are you laughing at,’ and she said, ‘There’s two,’ “ Danielle said.
So many emotions went through their heads, Todd said. “It was amazing, and crazy and cool. All the way home, we were like, who should we call first.”
After family members were notified, more doctor appointments followed, including a referral by Danielle’s Chicago cardiologist to one of her friends who was a cardiologist for the IU Health team in Indianapolis.
“It made me feel good that the two were friends,” Danielle said.
The couple began every-two-week doctor appointments and ongoing scans, which showed the boys were identical, in two separate amniotic sacks, but sharing one placenta.
The risk of a disorder called twin-to-twin transfusion was explained to them, but everything seemed to be going well — until the 22nd week of the pregnancy.
Danielle had gone to the doctor’s appointment with a girlfriend that week, she said. The scan showed that Conner had no amniotic fluid around him and wasn’t moving, while Cooper had more amniotic fluid than he needed.
Danielle said it was described to her as Cooper swimming in too much fluid, and Connor pancaked into the side of her belly with not enough.
And both were in trouble, she said.
The disorder occurs when the placenta contains abnormal blood vessels, which connect the babies’ umbilical cords and circulation. The common placenta is shared unequally by the twins, meaning one twin may have a share too small to provide necessary nutrients to grow or even survive.
But there are also issues for the other twin, who can become overloaded with blood, putting a strain on the baby’s heart. Too much amniotic fluid is also dangerous for the twin who is receiving more rather than less.
There are five different stages of the disorder and Danielle was told she was in Stage 1. But doctors told her that soon she and Todd would be going to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, one of five hospitals in the United States specializing in treating the transfusion syndrome.
Traveling to the hospital the Tuesday after Memorial Day, the couple prepared for a week-long stay for tests and treatment, and soon learned that the twins and Danielle were now at Stage 3.
“Stage 5 is fetal death,” she said.
After a day-long process of scans and tests, the couple was taken into a conference room with all the doctors and nurses assigned to their case to go over the results, pulling up the scan images and for more than an hour going over the risks of treatment. The couple was asked to sign multiple consent forms, including acknowledging the risk that Danielle could go into labor during the treatment, which would have been far too early in the pregnancy.
“We had to choose whether we would ask them to keep the twins alive,” Danielle said, wiping away tears. “That whole week, we had to decide what to do about every single risk.”
Because of her heart condition, an entire cardiac team, including a cardiac anesthesiologist, also would need to be a part of the treatment plan.
On Thursday of that week, Danielle said the discomfort was at its worst, as her stomach hardened with more than 2 liters of additional amniotic fluid that was first drained from around Cooper, before doctors went through a 1-inch incision on her side to cauterize seven different parts of the placenta to reroute nutrients to each twin.
“My mind was all over the place,” Todd said of waiting during the procedure with family members.
The realization came to him that the procedure wasn’t just dangerous for the twins, it was also dangerous for his wife.
“I realized I could lose you,” Todd said, breaking down in tears as he looked at his wife. “I could lose these boys.”
The surgeons had asked if the couple had names picked out, and told them they wanted the best for Cooper Thomas and Conner Michael.
“It was reassuring to us just how much they really cared,” Todd said of the staff at Cincinnati. “Everybody was awesome to us. We have said multiple times, for such an unpleasant thing, they were great to us.”
Everything went well with the procedure, but now the recovery was up to the boys and their mother, as doctors monitored whether the blood flow, nutrients and sharing between the twins evened out, and Danielle’s cardiac condition remained stable. They were told the rebalancing could take weeks, and it was unknown whether Danielle might go into labor early.
“I asked them what I could do,’” Danielle said. “They told me to keep eating and stay hydrated.”
She was placed on modified bed rest as she did start having some contractions after the surgery. But with medication and the bed rest, this subsided.
She eventually returned to work, although her job was now sitting at a registration table, and Todd also returned to work as an on-site service representative at Grainger Industrial Supply, awaiting a possible delivery date around 34 to 36 weeks, which is standard for identical twins.
At 33 weeks, 10 weeks after the twin-transfusion procedure, she asked the IU Health doctors if she could continue to push on a week at a time to extend the pregnancy as close to 36 weeks as possible.
They got to 35 weeks, when Danielle began experiencing shortness of breath and wheezing and went into the hospital on Aug. 20, with plans for the C-section on Aug. 22. The twins had other ideas, and after Danielle went into actual labor, they were born Aug. 21.
While the world was going crazy over the lunar eclipse, Todd and Danielle were over the moon with Cooper and Conner.
Cooper was on a breathing apparatus for a short time, but both boys were soon breathing well on their own and were placed in the neonatal intensive care unit for 16 days, eventually being moved over to a progressive NICU at Riley Children’s Hospital where the couple could stay with the babies all the time.
Eventually, the twins arrived home on Sept. 6. A period of sleep deprivation ensued, with family and friends helping by providing meals, helping with the babies and handling household chores. Todd’s daughter Natalie, 9, is getting to know and enjoy the boys.
Now the couple is getting down to a routine with the twins that involves much more sleep, learning to catch sleep time in shifts with one parent feeding the twins and the other sleeping, as necessary.
The boys are holding their head up now, and beginning the process of learning to roll, which will lead to crawling. There will be three Christmas celebrations the twins will attend with family.
“We are just really thankful for everything,” Todd said as he held Cooper after giving him a bottle. “There are times I have to stop myself and remind myself to enjoy how they are now.”
The staff at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has emailed the couple to learn how the twins are doing. There may be a return trip there in the future, but nothing is planned right now.
One of Danielle’s favorite things is to wake up after her chance to sleep in and see Todd with Cooper and Conner “having boy time,” on their own, she said.
“They’re all happy,” she said of watching Todd talk to them about football or goofing around with toys. “I like to see them happy and having fun.”
Todd said the couple has completed their family with the arrival of the Connor and Cooper, and Danielle laughed as they glanced at each other while holding their twin miracles.
To learn more about twin-to-twin transfusion, visit the Twin to Twin Transfusion Foundation at:
For more on the condition known as transposition of the great arteries, visit:
For more on the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and its work to treat patients with twin-to-twin Transfusion, visit