Gabrielle’s Story

An Unexpected Situation
Words by Erin Marie Heinert for ‘Area Woman‘ magazine

Their due date was October 14, 2014, but Lynze and Jeff Feller would meet their twin girls well before autumn arrived. They went to Lynze’s doctor’s office in Minot, North Dakota, for a routine ultrasound in August. It detected some fluid had built up around Baby B. As the staff looked into the severity of the situation, Lynze was told she could go home.

“I didn’t have a good feeling when we left,” remembers Lynze. “It was a little scary not knowing what was going on. But then we got the call to come back right away.”

Lynze and Jeff drove back to the hospital where they learned their girls needed to be delivered as soon as possible. Their doctor said they would be taken by plane to Sanford Children’s in Fargo. When Lynze questioned if Mayo would be a better choice, their doctor said Sanford in Fargo is a great hospital and the extra time it would take to fly to Rochester is too risky.

“We were scared, but trusted our doctors decision to send us to Fargo,” says Jeff. “So we went to Sanford Children’s and within an hour of arriving, Lynze was rushed in for an emergency C-section.”

“When Baby B, who was Gabrielle, was born, she didn’t make any noise at all,” says Lynze. “They just rushed her out of the room. But when Hancee came out, I heard her cry for a split second and I knew that, for at least that moment, she was OK.”

Reality sets in
Hancee was a typical preemie with issues that could be handled with time and treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit until she grew stronger. She would spend a total of 56 days in the hospital before being released. Gabrielle, however, was on the opposite spectrum of care needs. Gabrielle’s lung and heart functions were extremely poor. She had Down syndrome, leukemia and issues with most of her organs. She needed maximum support.

“They were very up front with us,” says Jeff, “We sat down with her care team and Dr. Bellas would walk us through the concerns and what they could do for her.”

“We didn’t want to give the parents any false hope,” says Dr. Bellas. “They were on board to give Gabrielle care that was beneficial to her, to make her comfortable. And she was a heroic little girl. She pulled through and improved a lot, but we reached a point where no additional care could be given to her.”

Moving forward
The Fellers decided that whatever was left of Gabrielle’s short life shouldn’t be spent in the hospital. They rented an apartment in Fargo so they could remain close to the team at Sanford Children’s, and after 98 days in the NICU, Gabrielle was stable enough to leave.

The Fellers spent a few weeks together as a family, but the time went too quickly and at the beginning of December, Gabrielle began to deteriorate. She returned to Sanford Children’s Hospital where she passed away a few days later in the pediatric intensive care unit.

“We are so grateful to the team at Sanford Children’s for the type of care they gave our girls,” says Lynze. “They were able to take care of our children when we couldn’t and we are so thankful for that. They received impeccable care and it was the best we could have asked for.”

Thanks to the team at Sanford Children’s, Hancee is doing great. She just celebrated her first birthday (August 2015) and had a few special guests at her party.

“A few of the nurses from Sanford Children’s and some of the people we had met in Fargo actually came to Minot to see her,” says Lynze. “They really had become our friends after all that time together and for them to come out to her party was just extremely special and says a lot about the team there.”