Opalyn and Rex Clark’s relationship has been complicated from the start. They began dating long-distance in 2010—she in the Philippines, he in the United States. Even after they married in 2012, Opalyn had to spend much of the next year back in the Philippines. So it should not come as much of a surprise that just when it seemed to get simple—Opalyn was back in Texas, pregnant, ready to start their family—it didn’t stay that way for long.
Seven weeks into Opalyn’s pregnancy, after a trip to the emergency room, the Clarks found out that she was carrying four babies instead of one. “When the doctor went into the room to tell me the good news, I was crying,” Opalyn says. “I thought I had a miscarriage, so it was a mix of emotions at that time.”
At 16 weeks, an ultrasound turned up one more baby. At 24 weeks, a routine checkup ended with Opalyn being admitted to Parkland Memorial Hospital for the remainder of her pregnancy. Though they now receive Medicaid benefits, the Clarks didn’t have health insurance at the beginning of their parental adventure. Rex is employed in the high-stakes field of violin repair, and his wife doesn’t have work authorization yet.
Opalyn spent the next 54 days in the hospital’s high-risk pregnancy unit and 54 nights away from her four dogs and her husband, who drove an hour from their Allen home to see her. She didn’t like the hospital food. Rex or her mother, Adelaida, brought her something to eat every night.
The last three weeks, Opalyn says, “were sleepless.” She was only comfortable on her side, and barely even then. Mercifully, at 4 am on June 17, Opalyn and Rex’s second wedding anniversary, her water broke. The Parkland staff was ready. They had been ready for a while.
“One thing about Parkland, I think, that’s very different from any other hospitals in the community is we deliver over 10,000 babies a year,” says Dr. Alison Wortman, the Clarks’ main care provider during the pregnancy. “And we used to deliver over 16,000 babies a year. So we’re very used to doing a lot of deliveries at once, even a lot of high-risk deliveries at once. I think if she would have come in at 25 weeks unexpected, it would have been a little bit crazier, but we would have handled it.”
Because there are usually only one or two warmers per delivery room and because each baby required, at minimum, a five-member team—one respiratory nurse, two NICU nurses, one labor and delivery nurse, and one neonatologist—and because, as Wortman says, “she could have gone into labor when they had four deliveries going on and two c-sections,” the Parkland staff had to come up with contingency plan after contingency plan. Opalyn had been admitted on a Monday; Wortman and the delivery team had their first meeting that Thursday and a dry run the following week.
“We actually had taped-up towels we used for the babies,” Wortman says. “Because there were so many people, they all had name tags with Baby A, B, C, D, E—who they were assigned to.”
Wortman says she thinks the team even went as far as color-coordinating everything, but she’s not sure. “I was a little busy at the operating table,” she says. About 50 people total were involved in the delivery, including Wortman and three other surgeons. “It was kind of like a nice little dance we had down,” she says. “It went very smoothly.”
How smoothly? Baby A (a girl, Vianca Quing) was born at 9:13 am; Baby E (another girl, Scarlett Jessie) was born at 9:17. Four minutes for five babies (one other girl, Alessandra Roxy, and two boys, Perrin Rex and Noah Steve). Vianca, Noah, and Alessandra are out of the hospital now. The Clarks may have taken an unusual route, but they ended up in exactly the right location.
“Parkland is not the best place to go for the comfort and glam of hospital,” Opalyn says, “but surely they make up for it with the great team of doctors and care they gave me. And the care they are still giving two of my babies.”