Press Release 14 June 2016
On Father’s Day, Local Dad Recounts How the Birth of His Twin Daughters 13 Years Ago Changed the Course of His Life
Like most Dads, Lonnie Somers is looking forward to spending Father’s Day with his daughters, Ashley and Aspen. Their births nearly 13 years ago changed his life forever – and set him on a path that he never imagined when he and his wife, Michelle, learned they were expecting.
“When I think about Father’s Day, I remember when we first found out we were expecting. We were so excited to be parents and to be having twins – especially girls, which I knew would be Daddy’s girls. Michelle and I focused on how we were going to care for two babies and also on our hopes and dreams, looking forward to the milestones we all take for granted.”
Everything changed, however, when the young couple received a diagnosis of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), a condition that affects twins sharing a placenta where one baby receives a disproportionate amount of blood and nutrients vs the other. In most cases, without treatment (which was very limited in options 13 years ago), mortality is 100%. Given almost no hope, they were faced with the option of terminating the pregnancy or the likelihood that their daughters would die in utero.
“At that moment, all those special occasions we might never have flashed before my eyes,” Somers admits.
Rather than accepting hopelessness, the parents searched the internet for information and resources about the fetal syndrome that endangered the lives of their girls. The knowledge they gained led them to Florida for fetal surgery that saved their daughters’ lives.
“My first Father’s Day was a couple of days before Ashley and Aspen were born in 2003,” Somers said. “At that point Michelle and I knew our dreams and hopes were within our grasp. It was an emotional rollercoaster.”
On the day Somers brought his girls home after 13 days in the NICU, he spoke by phone with a family facing the same dilemma his had faced. Lonnie and Michelle’s experience had opened their eyes to the fact that there was not a lot of information about fetal syndromes available and that something needed to be done.
“We never want any family to look back and say, ‘If I’d only known,’” he said.
Somers took eight months off from work to plan a TTTS Race for Hope, which raised over $20,000. That event was the focal point that led Lonnie and Michelle to create the Fetal Health Foundation (FHF) in 2006. The Littleton, Colo.-based national nonprofit provides support to families who have received a fetal syndrome diagnosis. Lonnie Somers is the chairman and founder of the organization, which serves as a liaison between families affected by TTTS and many other fetal syndromes and the medical treatment centers and teams available to provide care. With its recently revamped Web site at www.fetalhealthfoundation.org, and newly hired CEO (Dalia El-Prince) the FHF is ready to give help and hope to parents nationally and internationally. Within 30 days of launch, the updated site was visited by viewers from 90 percent of the world’s countries.
After organizing the Race for Fetal Hope for a few years, Somers wanted to expand that annual event beyond its original base, but still stay true to the work of the foundation. The result was the creation of The Great Candy Run, a candy land type of themed family fun 5K run/walk benefitting the FHF. From just 400 participants at the inaugural TTTS race, the fun-filled family event has grown to more than 6,000 runners and walkers and thousands more spectators at the annual event at Denver’s Washington Park. In 2016, the Denver Great Candy Run is scheduled for Sunday, November 13. Two additional Great Candy Runs will take place this year – one in Minneapolis on Sept. 17 and another in Seattle on Oct. 30. Visit http://www.thegreatcandyrun.com for event details and registration.
Looking back over the past 13 years, Somers admits, “Becoming a father changed everything in my life.”
More memories and milestones are on the horizon for the Somers family. During the third weekend of June, in addition to observing Father’s Day, they will celebrate the twins’ 13th birthday. And, in a few months, those two happy, healthy teenagers will be starting high school.
About The Fetal Health Foundation
The Fetal Health Foundation (FHF) is a national nonprofit focused on empowering and supporting expectant parents by providing information, access to world class maternal fetal medical experts, financial support, connections and counseling. In addition, FHF funds research, increases awareness, and serves as an outlet for leading medical information pertaining to fetal conditions and syndromes. To learn more visit www.fetalhealthfoundation.org.