Posted in Health Care, July 27, 2021
Parents holding three babies in NICU
April and Brenden Otjen of Hillsboro bonding with their three babies in one of the NICU's private rooms. (OHSU/Jeff Schilling)

Hillsboro Medical Center has been delivering babies since 1918. The hospital began as a safe place for women to give birth in the six-bed home of Minnie Jones Coy. In over 100 years, there have never been a set of triplets born at the hospital until now.

April Otjen gave birth to a girl and two boys on July 1 in the Family Birth Unit. Her husband, Brenden, was by her side as Samuel Crane, M.D., assisted by Morgan Lisner, M.D., delivered the babies. Amelia Carr, M.D., and a team of 19 specialists were on hand to take care of each baby after they were born.

“I was scared. It all was happing so fast. Then we heard the first baby cry and everything slowed down for us,” April said. “There was a lot of great care and wonderful support. We wouldn’t have been this successful without Dr. Crane and everybody’s help,”

Dr. Samuel Crane has been April’s primary care doctor at Orenco Station Primary Care prior to her pregnancy. He knew having three babies would require a higher level of care.  The average length of pregnancy for triplets is 32 weeks. Dr. Crane felt that 35 weeks would be ideal to safely deliver April’s babies at the hospital.

“Getting her to that due date was no easy task,” Dr. Crane said.  “There were complications along the way, including gestational diabetes that caused higher blood sugar levels that could affect her pregnancy.”

To keep April and her three babies healthy, Dr. Crane put together a plan to coordinate their care with perinatology and maternal fetal specialists located at Hillsboro Medical Center. They would monitor her blood glucose levels and do multiple growth scans of the babies.

With an expanded Family Birth Unit and the addition of Doernbecher’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in the hospital, Dr. Crane and the family medicine team were confident that they would be able deliver the three babies at Hillsboro Medical Center.

Dr. Crane worked with the medical director of NICU and Pediatrics, Angela Douglas, M.D., and Lindsey Kennedy, M.S.N., RN, nurse manager of the Women’s and Children’s Unit, to prepare for every possible situation that might occur during and after the delivery. They also set up a special room to monitor the baby’s vital signs.

“We created a highly choreographed plan that would ensure safety for mom and the babies but still emphasized bonding and involvement with the parents,” Dr. Douglas said.

The triplets were born by c-section at 35 gestational weeks, right on schedule. Each baby had their own medical team to stabilize and provide care for them immediately after birth.

“There was a lot going on and a lot of people in the room. We could definitely tell they were well prepared and the plan was being executed to a tee,” Brenden said.

Triplets sleeping in the NICU

As expected, the babies were small and moved into the NICU.  They didn’t have enough body fat to hold in their heat and were put under warmers. Each one needed feeding tubes to make sure they got enough nutrients until they could feed on their own.  The boys also required continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to open up their lungs and help make breathing easier.

April and Brenden were extremely happy with all the support and encouragement they received along the way. “We’ve been incredibly fortunate that everything has worked out and are forever grateful,” April said.

The triplets are now Dr. Crane’s newest patients at Orenco Station Primary Care.

Writer & photographer: Jeff Schilling