Four hearts still beating as one

Liam and Rhys White started life in an extraordinary way.

They were born at The Ottawa Hospital on December 22, 2006, three and a half months premature. Rhys was 1 lb 8 oz, his identical twin Cullen was 1 lb 4 oz, brother Liam was 1 lb 10 oz, and his identical twin Daniel was 1 lb 3 oz.

“We knew it was quadruplets when I had the first ultrasound at eight weeks. There were four heart beats,” said Nora Shipton, the boys' mother. “We had two sets of identical twins born by caesarean section. There was an amazing team of 25 people in the delivery room.”

The boys were born exceptionally early at 26 weeks and two days. Babies born before 35 weeks are considered high risk—their lungs and hearts aren’t fully developed yet.

When the White quadruplets were admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Ottawa Hospital’s General Campus, making sure they kept breathing was critical. Liam didn’t need a tube to open his airway but received oxygen through a nose tube instead. The other three boys, however needed to be intubated (a breathing tube needed to be inserted). On top of breathing problems, Rhys and Liam also had heart surgery to correct faulty heart valves and were operated on the same day.

Sadly, despite every effort brother Cullen passed away on January 16, 2007 and brother Daniel two days later.Liam et Rhys

“The care that we received at the NICU was beyond excellent. The nurses and the doctors were so caring and attentive and helped us through the roller coaster that all NICU parents ride,” said Nora. “We will forever be grateful to them for the love and the care that they gave to all of our babies.”

Liam spent 88 days and Rhys 98 days in the NICU. It was bittersweet for Nora and Rob when Liam and Rhys finally came home.

Three months after losing two of their sons, Nora and Rob White decided that they wanted to give back; to help support the NICU team who had helped Liam and Rhys survive their early entry into the world. Initially, they were inspired to contribute towards a twin water bed that was 

needed.  The boys were in individual water beds but co-sleeping was proven to help healing.  They realized, however that the water bed was a one-time gift and preferred something that would continue to give over time, as a need would arise.  Nora's late father, Ralph Shipton, researched Legacy Endowment Funds, it was just the thing they were looking for.  The family then created the Cullen James and Daniel Morgan White Legacy Endowment Fund, which would contribute over the long term to meet the endless needs of the NICU. 

In May, Liam and Rhys are doing something extraordinary for The Ottawa Hospital NICU. They are running 5kms as a family-team in the Ottawa Race Weekend. On top of doing something fun and healthy, they are running to raise money for the NICU and running for their two brothers Cullen and Daniel, in the hope of keeping future families like theirs together.

The endowment fund set up in memory of Cullen and Daniel will continue to help other families who will need the latest, most innovative care for their preemies. Thanks to the forward-thinking of their grandfather, their brothers’ Legacy Endowment Fund can keep on giving into the future.