CENTRAL TEXAS — When a baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy, the baby is considered premature.
November is National Prematurity Awareness Month, meant to increase awareness about preterm birth. For the Daniels family, this month holds a different meaning.
They say two is better than one.
"We were pregnant with twins, identical twins, Abigail and Annabel," Sandra Daniels said.
Sandra was 24 weeks along, as she and her husband Anthony started stocking the nursery with two of everything pink and white. However, at 3 a.m. on July 24, Mrs. Daniels felt a familiar pain.
"I felt like I was having contractions. I remember just praying and hoping that this wasn't the real thing," Mrs. Daniels said. "I just kept walking around and it got stronger and stronger. I woke up my husband and I said something is wrong we’ve got to go now."
Mrs. Daniels said at the Baylor Scott & White hospital in College Station, surgeons were able to perform emergency surgery.
"It was very difficult it was very sudden," said Mr. Daniels.
Doctors and nurses worked around the clock for four days in College Station to save both babies.
Sandra said, "They know that they can do so much but at the end of the day these little babies, these little fighters, they’re in control."
Unfortunately, two became one when Abigail Lily Daniels died at just four days old on July 27, 2020.
After Abigail passed, her sister Annabelle was transported to McLane Children's Hospital in Temple. One of Annabelle's doctors was Dr. Greg Miller, the Associate Director of NICU at McLane Children's Hospital.
"Occasionally more babies under 1500 grams a year, the real micro-preemies the 25 weeks in last, we admit maybe a half a dozen a month on average. There aren't a lot of those babies, but they obviously take the most effort to maintain their stability and protect their lungs and keep them alive," said Dr. Miller.
After more than 100 days in the NICU Annabelle survived. Miller says the odds for survival are improving for premature babies with the advancements of technology.
Miller said, "We're getting better at it. We're saving more of them. The debate through my career has moved from trying to save babies that say 27 weeks to now. We're having serious conversations about saving babies at 21 and 22 weeks. There's research going on now for an artificial womb, which probably will be a reality within my working lifetime. She was a fighter, and she came through it well."
While the Daniels said they are grateful to have one of their baby girls, they often think about the little one they lost. The Daniels say their strong sense of faith has pushed them through one of the most difficult moments of their lives.
And to the doctors and nurses who saved their baby girl, "Team Annabelle thank you, thank you. We’re very grateful for all of you thank you," said Sandra.
Annabelle is still under close watch by doctors recovering from a brain bleed early on.
To the other NICU parents, the Daniels say make sure you cherish every second with your child and take it one day at a time.
To the NICU mothers, Sandra says don't blame yourself.