NewYork-Presbyterian Welcomes Quintuplets

For the first time since 1992, the hospital helps deliver five babies at once.

The big moment was finally here: New mom Arlette was ready to deliver her babies. A team of physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, fellows, and nurse technicians was ready and in their assigned positions in a labor and delivery room at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

For the first time since 1992, NewYork-Presbyterian was about to deliver quintuplets — a rarity, with fewer than 50 cases recorded in the U.S. in 2017, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On February 26, 2019, out the babies came — boy, boy, girl, girl, boy!

Arlette delivered all five by cesarean section at 30 weeks and 2 days. Weighing in at 2 to 3 pounds each — Thiago, 3 pounds even; Montserrat and Mathias, both 2 pounds 8 ounces; Sophia, 2 pounds 6 ounces; and Sebastian, 2 pounds even — they were taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) immediately to be closely monitored.

The days leading up to delivery and the day of took considerable planning and preparation and was a true team effort, led by Dr. Chia-Ling Nhan-Chang, maternal-fetal medicine expert at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and the family’s OB-GYN.

“We are honored that the Rivera family chose us to be a part of their journey to start a family. Arlette’s positive attitude helped her stay active and healthy until the third trimester,” says Dr. Nhan-Chang, who is also an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “It was a remarkable multidisciplinary team endeavor that resulted in the delivery of five healthy babies at 30 weeks, well beyond the average gestational age of delivery for quintuplets. We couldn’t be happier for them. There wasn’t a dry eye in the delivery room.”

A New Tool for the NICU

The quintuplets’ birth was also a chance to test an added protection in identifying babies in the NICU.

Research spearheaded by Dr. Jason Adelman, chief patient safety officer and associate chief quality officer at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, has found that the frequency of wrong-patient orders in the NICU increases with multiple births as a result of siblings sharing the same last name. To minimize errors and maximize patient safety, the team at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital is testing an added protection to identify babies in the NICU, called a pictograph, which is an image of an easy-to-remember object, such as a clover or basketball.

For the quintuplets, the pictographs were both a sweet and helpful way for Arlette to assign a visual to her babies, as well as a simple yet critical solution to minimize the chance of errors during their NICU stay. Prior to giving birth, Arlette closely studied the graphics of animals, nature, music, and sports, and, based on her understanding of the babies’ personalities in the womb, decided on a sunflower and bumblebee for the two girls, and a baseball, violin, and rocket ship for the three boys. The pictographs were displayed alongside their given names on their medical records, as well as their isolettes once they were born.

“The team was very pleased that given our efforts to minimize confusion between the babies, which included using their given names instead of Baby A, B, C, D, and E and assigning them all pictographs, there were no wrong-patient errors,” Dr. Adelman says.

Meeting for the First Time

Once Arlette recovered from her delivery, she and dad Christopher visited the NICU, where they met the babies for the first time. Each baby rested in an individual, enclosed isolette, their names printed on colorful paper alongside their individual pictographs that hung from the cribs. For the next few weeks, the infants stayed in the NICU to ensure they were feeding well and gaining weight.

Today, all five babies are at home and doing well, and, according to Christopher, he and Arlette are getting accustomed to life as a family of seven.

“Words will never be enough to show the level of gratitude we feel with the doctors and the entire hospital team,” Christopher and Arlette add. “We will never forget everything they did for us.”

To read the story in Spanish, click here.

Learn more about the NICU at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.