Jason and Heather Kroeger were thrilled to discover earlier this year that they were expecting again. The couple, who had been high school sweethearts, already had five children ranging in age from four to 17. During an ultrasound a few months into the pregnancy, the family discovered they were having twin boys and that the babies were conjoined.
According to friends of the family, Jason and Heather were told many times throughout the pregnancy to end the lives of their twins in abortion. Jason said, “To us it wasn’t an option. These children are our children they were given to us for a purpose… to protect them. Abortion was never an option.” They were unwavering in their choice for Life for the twins, whom they named Elijah and Isaac.
Conjoined twins face many health challenges before and after birth because their skin and internal organs are fused together. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 40 to 60 percent of conjoined twins are stillborn, and of those born alive about 35 percent survive only one day. Doctors can only determine which organs are shared and if surgically separating the twin is possible.
After the Kroegers rejected abortion, they were sent from their home in North Carolina to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, because their local hospital was not equipped to address the twins’ needs. Because Cincinnati Children’s Hospital had successfully separated conjoined twins, the family was hoping that Elijah and Isaac would successfully be separated after birth. Heather was already 36 weeks pregnant when they arrived in Cincinnati, and the twins were delivered safely shortly after on September 5, 2017. After birth, doctors discovered that Elijah and Isaac cannot be separated, because they share vital organs.
The Kroegers, whom friends describe as “very humble and private people” face a long and difficult road with their two precious boys. Jason has returned to North Carolina to work and so their oldest son can attend high school, while Heather remains in Ohio with the other children. Elijah and Isaac have undergone surgery, and doctors are currently evaluating the next steps. Even in these difficult circumstances, the boys are thriving and begin to reveal their distinct personalities.
For parents facing a difficult prenatal diagnosis, the Kroeger family is a tremendous example of courageously embracing Life against all odds. Their twins have brought joy to their parents, older siblings, and community. We cannot know what their lives have in store for them. Seeing their continued progress beyond what may have seemed medically possible is a reminder that no one has a right to end the twins’ lives in the womb simply because their future is uncertain. As human beings, they have the same right to a chance at Life we all have.