Premature birth sends family, newborns around the world

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Regina Agoha
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Having children for the first time can be one of the most exciting moments in a couple's life.

Giving birth to twins in a foreign country, more than three months early, was not the excitement Airman 1st Class Travis Alton and his wife, Katie, said they were expecting.

"I was 24 weeks pregnant," Katie said. "When we came home from grocery shopping that day, I kept having really bad stomach pain. It got to the point where I couldn't walk."

Travis, a 19th Logistic Readiness Squadron aerial rigging journeyman, was working that day, so Katie went to the doctor alone for a checkup. To her surprise, the nurse gave her instructions to call her husband. She was fully dilated and ready to deliver.

"I had no complications (to this point) at all during my pregnancy," Katie said. "I ended up having to be taken by ambulance to an off-base hospital 45 minutes away because (Yokota Air Base, Japan) didn't have a (neonatal intensive care unit), or a nursery, and they don't (provide care) before 36 weeks."

Katie said during the ride to the hospital she was scared.

"I had the full contractions, and it was every two minutes," she said I remained calm. I wasn't freaking out or anything because I knew if I did, or started getting stressed, that it wouldn't be good for the babies."

Once the Altons arrived at the hospital, the babies were born without further complications. Jenson came first weighing 1 pound, 4 ounces. One minute later came his sister Ally, weighing 1 pound, 5 ounces. The Alton twins were put on ventilators for the three months they spent there in a Japanese NICU.

Though still small, the twins were allowed to leave the hospital to receive care in the U.S.

"Yokota (AB) didn't have long-term care; they didn't have the resources that we do here (in the U.S.)," Travis said. "So it was decided that we needed to go to a stateside base where all that stuff is available. They gave me a few bases to choose from. We picked Little Rock (AFB, Ark.) because it's close to home, and the children's hospital in Little Rock is really good. Also, the base is really nice, so it was kind of a win win, win for us."

The Altons had one day to prepare to leave Yokota AB and head to Okinawa AB, Japan. Though very stressed, they said a little ease came with the help of Exceptional Family Member Program.

"(Exceptional Family Member Program) basically set us up," Travis said. "They made arrangements with Children's Hospital here in Arkansas as well as arrangements with the base."

The Altons flew on a C-130 Hercules to Okinawa AB. They arrived May 9, and stayed for two days. While there, the twins passed their eye exams and developed well enough to be taken off the ventilators and oxygen.

"After leaving Okinawa (AB), we were flown on a KC-135 (Stratotanker) to Hickam (AFB), Hawaii," Travis said. "An EFPM representative was able to coordinate getting the twins a room at a civilian hospital ... off base in Hawaii because the NICUs on base were full. We stayed there overnight and headed to Little Rock."

Throughout the flight, the twins flew in the comfort of their incubators. Travis and Katie were able to give their twins bottles and change their diapers.

"We didn't have any problems at all with the babies on the flight," Katie and Travis said.

"It was smooth," Travis said. EFMP was great the whole way through. I don't know where we'd be without them or how we would have gotten everything done. Each place we went, there was an EFMP representative there to help us in any way they could."

Once the Alton family reached Little Rock, AFB, May 11, the babies were immediately taken to a children's hospital and did great, the couple said. The twins came home June 16 -- Father's Day.

"Having the babies come home on Father's Day was awesome," Travis said. "It was a great Father's Day gift! It was surreal. We spent four months visiting them in the hospital, but it felt like an eternity. We were worried all the time. Each day was a process. To actually have them home and to have all that stress in the past ... I can't really find words for that."

Travis referred to his son and daughter as little miracles.

"Looking back, I can't believe it," he said. "The doctors gave us the odds and survival rate, which was 15 percent. Having twins made it even less."

"But they beat the odds, didn't they?" said Katie's mother, as she looked her tiny granddaughter she held.

Now that the twins are home and settled in, the Altons said they are excited about having a son and daughter, and feel like it's finally starting to set in that they are parents.

"It's weird to me," Katie said. "When I hear them cry, it's like, 'I have two babies,'" she laughed. "It's so unreal. They're mine, and I get to keep them!"

The couple said they can't wait to just play with them.

"I can't wait to get them both four-wheelers and play hot wheels with them," Travis said.

"I can't wait to just teach them stuff. Little things like 'momma' and 'dada,'" Katie said.

As the Alton twins continue to grow, their parents said they are amazed at what they've already overcome in their short lives.

"I still can't believe how big they've gotten, but they're still small by any standard really," Travis said. "Jenson is now seven pounds and Ally is five pounds. Our whole goal was to get them home and now ... what do we do next?"