Did you know there is a 3 in 100 chance, in America, to have triplets? So to find out you’re having triplets is one thing, but to find out those triplets are 1 in 500 trillion is something else entirely! However, that’s exactly what happened to the Howard family.
Meet the family
Amy and Michael Howard live in Center Moriches, Long Island. Amy was 37-years old when she found out she was pregnant, and the pair were over the moon.
Finding out the news
However, when they went for a routine check up, they found out something that would totally rock their world. The sonogram tech found one baby, before realizing there was a second there too. After a brief pause, she told the couple that there were three heartbeats. The Howard family were having triplets! As mentioned, there is a 3 in 100 chance to have triplets, and it’s not something you see every day. The couple were stunned.
Getting used to the idea
Amy admitted she was in shock when she first found out. At first, she cried hysterically, saying, “I was terrified. It took me a little bit of time to get used to the idea, to be honest.” Of course, being first-time parents, both Amy and Michael Howard were suddenly thrown into the deep end, not knowing how to react. One baby would be a handful in itself… But three?! That would really be a handful to deal with.
Born in October
The couple conceived their triplets without fertility treatments, with Mike saying, “I think we just got lucky.” They quickly got used to the idea and began setting up their lives, ready for their three new arrivals. On October 22, 2013, the triplets were born. Mike and Amy quickly fell in love, with all of their worries suddenly dissolving. They were parents to three beautiful baby boys. Things were about to take a worrying turn for the family, however…
Brothers in arms
Amy and Mike welcomed three boys into the world in October. Hunter and Jackson were identical twins, whereas Kaden was their fraternal brother. All three were absolutely adorable, and you could barely tell them apart. However, there was something worrying these new parents about their babies. It’s usual for first-time parents to be concerned, but they knew that something wasn’t right. From the moment they clapped eyes on their babies, they were in love, but they were also scared.
An unusual discovery
There was something wrong with the shape of the brother’s heads. Kaden was the most obvious. He had a triangle-shaped head with a pointy forehead. His brothers, on the other hand, had skulls that stuck out at the back. The parents obviously began to worry about the health of their newborn babies. Was there something wrong with them? Would they be okay? They couldn’t work out what could possibly have caused it. Perhaps it was totally normal…
Getting back to normal
Their first thought was that maybe there wasn’t enough room in the womb for all three babies to grow, which had led to their heads being squashed slightly. The Howards hoped that now the trio weren’t confined in a small space, things would start to get back to normal; they hoped that their heads would go back to the shape they were supposed to be. Doctors, however, weren’t so sure. There was definitely more to it than that.
Making a diagnosis
After various tests on the boys, the doctor had come up with a diagnosis. The worried parents waited patiently while the tests were carried out, hoping to have some news on what was wrong with their beautiful boys. They hoped it was something that was curable. The doctors came back with a diagnosis that shook the Howards to the core. The babies had Craniosynostosis. It was a condition that neither Amy nor Mike had ever heard of before. What did it mean?
What is their condition?
These triplets are suffering from a condition called Craniosynostosis. It is a skull problem that causes a baby to be born with (or to develop) an abnormally shaped head. The condition can cause headaches and learning difficulties, most of which don’t develop until later childhood. There are different types of craniosynostosis which impact different parts of the skull; hence the three boys having different abnormalities in their skulls. The parents were shocked to learn that this was what their boys were suffering with. What would it mean for their future?
A rare disorder
What was even more shocking was that the condition is an extremely rare one. It is thought that 1 in 1,800 to 3,000 children will suffer from craniosynostosis. And in 3 out of 4 of these cases, the child that suffers from craniosynostosis is a boy. There are also 150 different syndromes that can cause craniosynostosis, all of which are very rare. In 80-95% of cases, the condition is nonsyndromic. But what does this mean for the Howards?
Triplets with the same disorder
Doctors were astounded that all three triplets had ended up with craniosynostosis. The condition is usually caused by premature fusion of the different parts of the skull, stopping the skull from growing in certain areas. When one area cannot grow, it overcompensates by overgrowing other parts; ensuring there isn’t too much pressure on the brain. To see three boys be born with the same condition was utterly flabbergasting. Nobody could quite believe what they were seeing.
One in 500 trillion
The doctors worked out that there was a one in 500 trillion chance of all three children being born with craniosynostosis. These were one in 500 trillion triplets! Nobody had ever seen a case like this before, and medical experts from around the globe took an interest. After all, it’s not every day that you see babies born with a one in 500 trillion chance of having the same condition. But what were the next steps for the Howard triplets?
The risks of the condition
As already mentioned, there are some risks with children having craniosynostosis. Along with the persistent headaches and learning difficulties, babies can also experience eyesight problems and various other symptoms. The skull would continue to grow abnormally, and this could lead to many problems later down the line. The pressure in the brain would cause distress and challenges for children, especially as they continue to grow. Amy and Mike Howard feared for their adorable baby boys.
Craniosynostosis is a dangerous condition, the doctors warned the Howard family. They explained to them the risks, including the potential learning difficulties and eyesight problems. It was so dangerous, in fact, that the doctors presented the Howard family with a plan. They needed to do something about it, even though the babies were only a few weeks old. As they continued to grow, things could get worse. The parents had to make a tough decision; one they didn’t want to make.
The doctors were so blown away by this rarity, that they first wanted to take more CT scans to investigate further. They needed to better understand such a unique case; a one in 500 trillion chance kind of case. Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, where the children were staying, took various CT scans of the babies’ heads. They wanted to document this case and monitor its progress. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for doctors and researchers.
Once the CT scans were completed, all of the doctors agreed that the Howard triplets were going to need surgery. Despite being just nine-weeks old, the boys and their parents were preparing for an operation at the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital in New York. The surgery was to fix the deformations of their skulls; at least that was the hope. As you can imagine, both Amy and Mike were extremely nervous about their newborns having to be on an operation table so young.
Never done before
What heightened the parent’s worry was that this kind of operation had never been carried out on triplets before. It was to be a world first. It’s scary enough thinking that your children are going to go in for an operation when they are only nine weeks old, but even more scary to think that it was an operation that had never been carried out on triplets. The parents were scared for their babies and what might happen on the operating table.
Two days of surgery
The doctors explained that each operation would take three hours, meaning that two whole days of surgery would need to be dedicated to the triplets. This is a pretty dangerous prospect for anyone, especially for babies that were only nine weeks old. The parents were happy that the hospital was so accommodating, however, putting two whole days aside for the treatment of their beautiful trio of boys. All they could do was hope for the best.
Meet the surgeon
The surgeon who was to carry out the operations was Dr. David Chesler. Dr. Chesler is a pediatric neurosurgeon at the hospital where the boys were staying. He and his team were the ones who had carried out all the tests and found no other cases of triplets who had needed the surgery. He explained to Amy and Mike Howard how the procedure would work, along with the risks associated with carrying out such an operation on three small babies.
How the operation would work
Dr. Chesler would need to make small incisions on each of the boys’ heads and then use an endoscope and harmonic scalpel to cut out a strip of bone on the skull. This would then remove the seam that had been fused and allow the skulls to reshape, eventually growing normally again. It sounded horrific to the parents, especially with their babies being so young, but they knew it had to be done to give their boys a better life.
Heading into surgery
And so, it was time for the parents to kiss their babies goodbye and send them off into surgery. As parents, this is the last thing you want to do with newborn babies. They’d been blessed with the miracle of triplets, but now all three would be having surgery on their skulls; in an intricate operation that could be severely dangerous. It was a harrowing time for Mike and Amy Howard. All they could do was wait and keep everything crossed.
The operations took place over two days in January, just nine weeks after Hunter, Kaden and Jackson Howard were born. Dr. Chesler was the lead surgeon on the case, and he worked tirelessly on the operations over the two days. With each one potentially taking up to three hours, it would have been a long couple of days for the doctor. But not just for him, the parents also had a hellish 48-hours ahead of them. How would it go?
A tense wait
After each baby was sent off to surgery, Mike and Amy Howard could do nothing but wait in anticipation of the results. There’s nothing scarier than waiting hours upon hours for your newborn babies to come out of surgery. However, that’s exactly what these new parents had to do. After two days of waiting, they were finally given the results of the operation. Had it gone well? Were their babies okay? It was time to find out.
The news finally arrived. All three babies had made it through surgery and were seemingly doing great. Their parents – and the medical staff at Stony Brooks Children’s Hospital – were over the moon. There had been no complications in the operations, and everything had gone exactly as it should have done. Dr. Chesler was probably the parents’ favorite person on the planet after hearing the results of the surgery. But what would happen after? Would the triplets respond well to the operation?
Not only did Dr. Chesler have a thrilled Mike and Amy on his hands, but he had also completed a medical first. Because there had been no other cases of triplets with this condition before, the surgeon had done something no one else had. He had successfully operated on three related babies with craniosynostosis. Just curing the babies would have been recognition enough, but now Dr. Chesler could enter the record book, for completing a medical first. He made history.
In fact, the operation was such a success that the babies were allowed home just two days after the surgery. Amy and Mike Howard were clearly over the moon when they were told that they could finally take their boys home. After all of the stress and fear, they could now bring Kaden, Hunter, and Jackson home – where they belong. However, the journey wasn’t completely over for the parents and their little boys. There was still work to be done.
As with any operation, there will always be an aftercare procedure. However, for the Howard family, there was quite an in-depth routine to ensure the boys lived a healthy life. The road to recovery had only just begun, and there was plenty the parents needed to do, for the next six to nine months – and perhaps even longer. Their journey had only really just started. So, what would Mike and Amy need to do, to ensure the best aftercare for their babies?
First of all, the Howard family was given specialized headgear that the boys would need to wear. These specially made, tiny orthotic helmets were designed for the three boys to wear. Doctors advised the family that the triplets would need to wear their helmets to help mold their skulls, for 23 hours a day, 7 days a week, for up to nine months. It was a tough thing to accept, but the parents knew it would help their babies in the long run.
Amy and Mike were worried how the kids would react to wearing their helmets, and how they’d get used to them being part of everyday life. However, their parents felt nothing but joy when they saw their babies smiling up at them with their tiny helmets on. Mike said to Today.com, “Overall, they’re happy, well-adjusted babies.” The Howards have ensured that they remain positive throughout the ideal too, which has obviously rubbed off on their trio of sons.
An hour break each day
The triplets have to wear their helmets for 23 hours each day, but there is one special treat to look forward to. For an hour each day, the tiny helmets come off. This is when Amy and Mike lovingly wash their children’s heads. Being extremely careful, of course! Amy said, “It took them a little bit of time to adjust, but they don’t give me any problems taking them off or putting them back on at all.”
Telling them apart
As the helmets obscure their heads, it can be difficult for Amy and Mike to know which triplet is which! However, they have come up with an ingenious way to tell the boys apart. Each boy has individually colored socks! It’s hard enough telling triplets apart, but even more difficult when you can’t see all of their faces. By each boy wearing different colored socks, Amy and Mike can quickly work out who is who out of Jackson, Hunter, and Kaden.
You’ll be pleased to know that the three boys are growing up to be inquisitive and adventurous little boys. They’re all hitting their developmental milestones when they should, and generally behaving as babies do. We can imagine that’s quite a handful for the parents! None of the boys seem phased by their helmets, and nothing seems to get in their way. According to the parents, “It’s a little chaotic, ” but Mike has said he “wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Dr. Chesler has since given his prognosis on the Howard triplets, saying, “At this point, the triplets are thriving. The prognosis for Jackson, Hunter, and Kaden is perfect – they will do quite well both cosmetically and developmentally.” 95% of all subjects make a full recovery after this operation, so it certainly looks like things are on the up for the Howard family. We bet the parents are so relieved to hear that things can only get better from now on.
Truly unique babies
There’s no denying that Hunter, Kaden, and Jackson are truly unique babies. One in 500 trillion, in fact. Not only were they the first triplets to experience this condition together, but they also made medical history by going through surgery together. And hopefully, they’ll continue to make history as they become the first triplets with craniosynostosis to make a full recovery. It won’t be long before their heads are back to a normal shape and they can live life to the fullest.
A blessed family
And so, the Howard family are truly blessed. They were blessed with three beautiful boys. They were blessed to find Dr. Chesler. They were blessed that the operations were a success. And they will be blessed when all three boys make a full recovery. Mike even said himself, “We have been blessed throughout this whole thing. It’s just been an amazing, amazing experience.” What a beautiful ending to the story of three beautiful boys and their beautiful parents!