By Shelley Grieshop
COLDWATER -- Things keep coming in pairs for the Schmit family of Coldwater -- some good, some not so good.
It all started last fall when Julie and Todd Schmit found out they were expecting their fourth child in June. By January doctors discovered Julie Schmit was carrying twins who were sharing the same amniotic sac -- a rare and high risk condition.
Then in early March, without warning, Todd Schmit, 36, began experiencing headaches and chest pains. Soon the couple's life together parted into a series of doctor visits and hospital stays.
Todd Schmit spent several days in and out of the local hospital until diagnosed with cancer "of an unknown type," he says the medical chart read. "They just didn't know what it was."
He left the hospital but his symptoms worsened. Tests revealed a black mass on his lungs and lesions on his brain, and he was immediately sent to the Arthur James Cancer Hospital in Columbus. He spent a week and a half in the Columbus hospital and was released three days before Easter. He will re-enter the hospital today for more tests after weeks of at-home intravenous treatments failed to minimize the lesions on his brain. Surgery may be scheduled to repair a bronchial tube that was damaged by the mysterious illness.
"Doctors now think I have some type of infection, possibly a strep infection, that began in my lungs and spread to my brain," he says recently while sitting through one of the two daily, three-hour intravenous treatments. "I feel like a guinea pig."
The suddenness of his illness still has his physicians puzzled. He fears the first diagnosis of cancer was not in error. "One morning I woke up and I just couldn't get out of bed," he says.
Like two ships passing in the night, his wife was admitted to Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton, four days after he was dismissed from the Columbus hospital.
The babies are doing well, says Julie Schmit via telephone from the Dayton hospital where she has spent the last three weeks.
"They're both girls and they are identical," she says proudly.
Both parents have jobs with some medical benefits -- he works at Midmark in Versailles and she is employed at Omni Manufacturing in St. Marys. However the 80/20 percent insurance coverage still leaves the family with thousands of dollars to pay out of pocket, and the bills keep coming.
Neither parent has been able to work for more than a month now.
Julie Schmit must remain in the hospital on bed rest until the twins are born, the later the better. The births are expected to be premature and with complications, causing an inevitable extended hospital stay for the infants, too.
Mono-amniotic condition is rare (1 in 25,000 births). With no membrane to separate the fetuses, it's common for the umbilical cord to wrap around one of their necks or for one baby to receive more nutrients than the other, doctors told the couple.
"Right now they're both about 2 pounds, 13 ounces," Julie Schmit says with relief in her voice.
Doctors are delighted with the twins' progress so far and even more happy that the pair are girls. Baby girls fight harder for survival, she was told. The babies are monitored three times a day, and twice a week an ultrasound is performed, Julie Schmit says.
Friends and family continue to look after the couple's other children, Taylor, 11, Kaitlyn, 9, and 18-month-old Connor.
The couple repeatedly echoes their gratefulness to the many volunteers -- even perfect strangers -- who have done everything from buying groceries for the family to being surrogate parents for their children.
Julie Schmit says it's not easy being a mom by phone, but she's found a way to keep up her spirit.
"Everyone asks how I'm getting through this and staying so calm," she says. "I know I've done everything I can do to help these babies, and the doctors have done everything they can do to help my husband, so we've left it in God's hands. And that gives me the peace of mind I need."