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Published January 09, 2010, 12:00 AM

‘We didn’t want to let her go’

Couple cherish time spent with their daughter
Before their newborn daughter’s heart stopped, Jason and Cassie Skalicky got to hold her for one hour on New Year’s Day.

By: By Kelly Smith, INFORUM

Before their newborn daughter’s heart stopped, Jason and Cassie Skalicky got to hold her for one hour on New Year’s Day.

“We didn’t want to let her go,” Jason said of the 1-pound 3-ounce preemie.

Through their grief, the West Fargo couple have sought solace in the 12 hours they had with baby Natalie and the fact that she may have helped her twin, Andrew, survive.

“Even in the pregnancy … I’m thankful I had that time with her,” Cassie said tearfully. “That’s what we focus on … being thankful for the time, even though it was short.”

The Skalicky twins were Fargo-Moorhead’s first babies of 2010.

The couple haven’t had a chance, however, to celebrate that or Friday’s milestone: Andrew’s one-week birthday.

Instead, in the past week, they’ve called MeritCare Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit a second home as they stay near Andrew, who weighs 1 pound, 8 ounces.

They’ve also had to get used to the public attention surrounding their holiday babies, which has spurred an outpouring of support from people across the community and country.

Their CaringBridge site has had more than 2,000 visitors. And on Friday, a benefit fund was set up.

“That was the biggest shock – that people wanted to help us out financially,” Cassie said. “We’re learning really quickly how to accept help and how to accept support from other people.”

That’s because, as a police officer and community director, Jason and Cassie are used to helping others.

Now, they’re on the receiving end as hundreds of people reach out to them.

“Just to know there are other people who have gone through this or are going through this, it’s really comforting,” Cassie said.

The twins, born at 23 weeks, arrived more than four months early. Doctors had stopped contractions before, but by last week, they couldn’t hold them off anymore.

“We didn’t know if the babies would be alive if we delivered,” Cassie said.

MeritCare neonatologist Taysir Shash said 23 weeks is the earliest a baby can be born with a chance of survival. And even then, the child faces an uphill battle.

“A lot of babies wouldn’t make it to this point,” Shash said. “What the future will bring, we don’t know. (But) there is a reasonable chance of a satisfactory outcome.”

So, the family stays optimistic, relying on family and faith.

“We think of Natalie kind of like Andrew’s guardian angel,” Jason said, adding that the family believes Natalie’s health complications may have helped doctors care for Andrew.

So, when their 5-year-old daughter Gracie asked, “Is Natalie still part of our family?” her father had a simple answer.

“We have a lot of faith in our family,” he said. “We explained that to her and we said ‘yep, absolutely.’ ”

That’s why, in Andrew’s incubator, they’ve hung a photo of the twin sister he will never meet but is sure to never forget.

“That’s all we can do – keep going,” Cassie said. “We’re just very thankful for Andrew, and we’re thankful for Natalie and the time God gave us with her.”


How to help

  • What: Skalicky benefit fund

  • Where: United Savings Credit Union; 220 10th St. N., Fargo; 2401 Amber Valley Parkway, Fargo; 1407 Highway 10 W., Dilworth

  • Info: Drop off or mail donations. Cash, checks, Visa cash advances and bill pay are accepted.


    Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

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