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Two deadly scares, and triplets to be thankful for

Anthony and Andrea Temperino of Coral Springs were expecting to welcome triplets on Jan. 11, adding three baby boys to a family that already includes 20-month-old “big” brother Ayden.

Instead, they will spend Thanksgiving Day as they’ve passed most days since babies Ashton, Alexander and Austyn were delivered Nov. 1 by emergency Cesarean section at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Mom and Dad will have dinner with both sets of grandparents, but they’ll also make the long trip to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Holtz Children’s Hospital at Jackson, home for now to their babies.

And they will give thanks – for three tiny lives and for Andrea’s survival. About eights weeks into her pregnancy, she was diagnosed with a rare form of the autoimmune disorder Myasthenia gravis. The disease weakens muscles that affect breathing, swallowing and speech. At one point, Andrea was in extremely critical condition and nearly died.

Meeting with reporters at Jackson on Monday, the Temperinos and what Anthony dubbed their “dream team” of University of Miami doctors talked about the couple’s harrowing journey and its happy ending.

“It’s hard to express how thankful you are,” says Anthony, a charter company pilot who, like his wife, is 34. “How do you say thank you for my wife’s life, and for the babies’ [lives]…My life would be completely different if not for’’ these doctors.

In June, the Temperinos sought treatment at a Broward hospital after Andrea developed numbness in her lips and weakness. She had so much trouble breathing that she grabbed what little sleep she could sitting in a chair. She spent 10 days in intensive care, but multiple tests didn’t yield a diagnosis. One doctor suspected Myasthenia gravis, but a neurologist disagreed.

Increasingly frustrated, Temperino asked for his wife’s records and drove her to Jackson. By the next day, Andrea had her diagnosis. Her husband spent each night sleeping beside her in the hospital until she was released after five weeks. Aviation emergencies didn’t compare to how he felt about what his wife had gone through.

“I could be upside down in a plane. This made me much more nervous,” he said.

He recalls what Dr. Ashok Verma, the neurologist who treated Andrea for Myasthenia gravis, told him: “He said, ‘Your wife is my most precious patient. She has not just one life I’m looking out for but four.”

The Temperinos, who met in Boca Raton when she was his boss at a bank, married in 2005 but had no luck starting a family. Ayden was conceived through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), and Andrea’s first pregnancy was a normal one. After another round of IVF, she became pregnant with Ashton and identical twins Alexander and Austyn. After her Myasthenia diagnosis and treatment, she was fine until she felt abdominal pain at 30 weeks. The couple went back to Jackson, and “within 15 to 20 minutes of her arrival, she was on her way into an operating room,” said Dr. Salih Y. Yasin, director of obstetrics at Jackson’s Women’s Hospital Center.

Diagnosed with a life-threatening placental abruption, Andrea was given an emergency Cesarean, and all three babies were delivered within the same minute. Ashton, the baby whose placenta had separated from the uterine wall, inhaled and swallowed blood that collected in his amniotic sac, so he was treated with inhaled nitric oxide, and he continues to receive oxygen.

The babies are still close to their birth weights, Ashton at 3.3 pounds, Alexander at 4 pounds and Austyn at 2.7 pounds. They’ll remain in the NICU, continuing to develop, being treated and monitored, but the Temperinos are hoping to have them home by Christmas. The babies had never been dressed up until their photo was snapped on Monday, but at home, their parents have three of everything waiting for them.

“I can’t wait to take all my children home,” Andrea says. “We’re very grateful for having them.”

And they might not be finished with their family.

After Andrea learned that she was expecting three more sons, Anthony says, “She told me, ‘You know what this means, don’t you?’ We might have to try for a girl.”