Multiple Blessings

Quintuplets born at Jersey City Medical Center

Quintuplets were on the way, and the perinatal and neonatal teams at Jersey City Medical Center were ready.

On Sunday, January 6, Abla Boutaba went into labor a day before a planned cesarean section. That event triggered an urgent call for members of the perinatal and neonatal staff at Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC). These were no ordinary labor pains, but a precursor to the birth of quintuplets. The delivery of quintuplets would be a first for JCMC and a first for Hudson County. In fact, quintuplet births are rare anywhere. In 2017, there were only 49 sets of quintuplets or higher-order births in the U.S.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)“Quintuplets are highly likely to be premature, which means their bodies will not be fully developed. Many will need specialized care,” says Ameth Aguirre, MD, Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and a specialist in perinatal (before and just after birth) and neonatal (newborn) medicine at JCMC. “That’s why one of the most important steps that any parent can make, especially with a high risk pregnancy, is to identify the team with the highest levels of care, who can offer anything that a baby and mother might need during and after the birth.”

The parents of the quintuplets had done their homework, visiting several facilities before deciding on JCMC. Specialists at the medical center have extensive experience in delivering premature babies and multiples, such as twins and triplets, as well as caring for them after birth in the Level III Regional Perinatal Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Ready to go

Each of the five babies was assigned a team of at least 10 experts for the birth. These experts had been planning and preparing for months to give the babies the best chance for a healthy delivery. “Over 50 staff members were relaxing at home when they received the call to come in,” says Leah Dungee, Nursing Director of Maternal Child Services at JCMC. The call wasn’t entirely surprising, since each team member, knowing that labor could start at any time, had been on call every single hour of the day since January 1.

Giraffe Incubators in the NICU at Jersey City Medical CenterExperts at JCMC had made sure the parents knew that the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was ready for anything. “Weeks before the expected delivery date, we showed them the NICU already set up with equipment labeled for each newborn, to make sure we were always ready,” Dr. Aguirre says. “We told them about our written plan for each baby to have its own full team of caregivers, just as we have for single births. We also told them how the delivery team and those in the NICU had been rehearsing for the births.”

The team for each baby included an obstetrician, anesthesiologist, neonatologist, nursing staff, respiratory therapist, pediatric cardiologist and more. In addition, each specialist had a backup, in case they were unavailable at the time of birth. “Nationwide, it’s not common for a hospital to have a board-certified neonatologist on-call 24/7, as we do,” Dr. Aguirre says. “Few hospitals can assemble such a deep team of specialists day or night.”

dedicated staff of perinatal and neonatal specialists at Jersey City Medical Center
A dedicated staff of perinatal and neonatal specialists supported the family before, during, and after the birth.

A happy birth day

“On the big day, all the teams reported to the hospital knowing what to do. It was exciting,” Dungee says. As they had rehearsed, staff readied two delivery rooms. Abla and the teams for Baby A and Baby B were in place in one, and the other three teams waited in the other. Via cesarean section, Baby A was delivered and handed off to Dr. Aguirre on Team A. The team provided the special care she needed, then shepherded the baby to the designated spot in the NICU. Team B stepped up, and Team C came in to wait their turn. And so it went for babies D and E. Within just 30 minutes, the family had grown to include three girls, Nouha, Tala and Rouba, and two boys, Elmahdi and Elhadi. Though they were born at 28.5 weeks (vs. full-term at 40 weeks), at weights ranging between 1.3 and 2.2 pounds, the quintuplets quickly responded to any special care they needed. “The babies were in very good health,” Dr. Aguirre says. “It was remarkable.”

To reassure the new mom, hospital staff had also pre-arranged to have livestream video cameras on each child, so she could see her babies even while she was still in the operating room and, later, from her room in the maternity unit. “These parents wanted what everyone wants: a healthy delivery,” Dr. Aguirre says. “That’s our sole focus, too. They are very grateful, and not one day goes by that they don’t say thanks to us. “It was very exciting to be part of, and I’m proud of how every single person on the team did exactly what they needed to do to ensure the health of the entire family."

First-class maternity care

Jersey City Medical Center offers maternity specialists on site 24/7. a Level III Regional Perinatal Center and private rooms with majestic views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline. Learn more and schedule a tour.