The chances of having identical triplets are, well, let's just say pretty slim. Joleen Deutschmann and Bill Heilman beat those odds. And the odds weren't the only thing that made their multiple bundles of joy so surprising.
On the family's blog, "Joleen and Bill's Journey — a Family of 4 Adding 3 More!" Joleen writes about an accident that occurred during the summer of 1991, shortly after Bill's 16th birthday. "He was traveling out of town on a gravel road and came over a small hill," she writes. "He lost control of the vehicle after swerving to miss a vehicle that was in a field driveway."
Bill was airlifted to a local hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with a broken neck and a C5-6 incomplete spinal injury. "At first he had no feeling at all," Joleen writes. But today, “although he is a quadriplegic,” he does have some use of his hands and arms. "He also has most feeling in (his) legs but it gets 'spotty' above the waistline to about the armpit line," she writes.
Minneapolis/St. Paul's KARE 11 News reports that for that reason, Bill "never knew" whether he'd be able to have children, but that he and Joleen decided they'd try. A couple of months later, they had their answer: Joleen was pregnant.
Joleen, a pediatric nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, Minnesota, has two daughters from a previous marriage and knew what to expect when she went for an ultrasound. Or at least thought she knew. "I was looking back and forth between the screen and the doctor's face," she writes. "She seemed confused." The doctor told Joleen that she wanted to try a different ultrasound probe because "she thought that maybe she was duplicating the image."
Turns out, she was not. After asking another doctor to confirm what she believed she was seeing, Joleen's doctor informed the couple that Joleen was carrying triplets.
Due to the high-risk nature of her pregnancy, Joleen's prenatal care was then transferred to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus and maternal fetal medicine specialist Carl Rose, M.D. "We didn't know what to expect from him," Joleen writes of meeting Dr. Rose for the first time. But "from the moment that he walked through the door," Joleen says Dr. Rose "had a big smile and was so positive about this whole process. You could tell that he was sincerely excited to be there with us."
And he stayed there right up until week 32 of Joleen's pregnancy, when Dr. Rose helped Joleen give birth to three happy, healthy, and identical baby girls, KARE 11 reports. Brenna, Lachlynn, and Whitley each "weighed around four pounds and only needed a little help breathing at birth," the station reports.
And just as he has with his injury, Bill, it seems, is taking it all in stride. "I am a firm believer when I had my accident, it was for a purpose," he tells KARE 11. "I lived life to the fullest. I've done that quite often, and this is the best surprise I could ever get."
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