Tinier twin reunites with sister after NICU stay

Things are calmer for Ashley Gream, but they’re far from mellow.

She expected that with twins. She and husband Ryan did not expect Raya to be born first naturally while little Ryker needed a quick delivery by C-section. And they didn’t expect Ryker to go through some tenuous hours in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

“One minute we were buying two of everything. The next we were trying to figure out how to be in two places at once,” Ashley said. “We were both pretty shocked.”

Before Ryker was born, his placenta stopped working, leaving him underweight and with lungs that needed more time to develop. He stabilized in the NICU, but it was hard for Ashley to snuggle with and take care of Raya while she worried about when Ryker could come home.

Eleven days, actually. That’s how long the twins—who shared space for months before they were born—were apart afterwards.

Being able to see Ryker via webcam helped the family.

They knew he was OK. They could see him from any family-approved device. The community raised nearly $100,000 through Carle Center for Philanthropy to bring 48 cameras to Carle’s Level III NICU. The NICU cares for about 500 babies a year.

The webcam option could have gotten big brother Kaden, 13, in trouble at school.

Ashley said, “He was always texting me, telling me, ‘He’s fussing’ and ‘You need to move his tube.’”

But instead of taking away the teen’s phone, Kaden’s teacher invited the class to gather around to see Ryker.

While she waited for her littlest boy to grow stronger and meet certain NICU milestones, Ashley bonded with Amanda Phares, RN.

“Amanda made sure he drank his entire bottle so he could go home,” Ashley said. “She genuinely cared for him, and she genuinely cared for us.”

That’s how it works.

“It’s hard not to get attached. The family is at the bedside a lot. We get to know them on a personal level. I put myself in their shoes,” said Phares, the mother of 2½-year-old Ella.

“That these babies are loved on and taken care of is important to me.”

Now that both babies are home, they are certainly loved on there. And while the twins’ older brothers help a lot, Kaden and 9-year-old Keegan are not always on duty like Ashley.

“They love it, but they don’t wake up in the middle of the night when the twins are crying,” said Ashley, who’s just sure things in her four-child home will mellow out … soon.