AURORA, Colo. — The pregnancy started with all the normal excitement for Shawna Maas and Kevin Konkol.
“We were like, ‘Oh, we’re pregnant. That’s amazing,’” Maas said of the doctor’s visit when they first found out. “And they’re like, ‘There’s one baby. There’s two babies.’ And they’re like, ‘Let’s look for a third.’ I was like, ‘There better not be a third in there.’”
“All of the sudden, we were pregnant with twins,” Konkol said.
Then came the birth, but the twins were early — too early.
“We had two premature infants at 27 weeks back in March of 2021,” Maas said. “When you’re that early, you have a higher chance of complications.”
While Olivia, nicknamed Lulu, was small, she would be just fine. No such luck, however, for her twin sister, Charlotte, nicknamed Charlie.
“Charlie ended up having brain bleeds,” Maas said. “Her lungs were severely underdeveloped. And then later, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, as well.”
In the hours and days that followed the birth, it was touch-and-go with Charlie.
“Her belly turned black and blue overnight,” Konkol said of one particularly scary incident.
Days turned into weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. Twenty months later, Charlie remains at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
“There are two rules in this family. One is if Charlie fights, we fight,” Konkol said. “And the second is we all go home together. And that’s why we’ve been here for 20 months.”
“God, the universe, they don’t give you things you can’t handle. So, I think that you just kind of, you try to... we don’t have a choice,” Maas said. “And my job as her mother is to be her strength because it’s not her fault.”
“There’s so much ahead of us, but she’s learning new skills every day,” Konkol said.
The family is getting close to bringing Charlie home for the first time ever, thanks to some excellent medical care and family support.
“Our surgeon, he’s amazing,” Maas said. “And he’s saved her life probably multiple times at this point.”
But the challenges are significant. Maas left her career behind to be here for Charlie.
“Maybe in another life if we both still had those good jobs,” she said. "But I live at the hospital with Charlie full-time now.”
“How do you pay for all that?” asked Denver7’s Russell Haythorn.
“Medicaid and then a wing and a prayer,” Maas said. “We are massively in debt. We’re prideful people. This is not a position we thought we’d find ourselves in.”
Their immediate need is a bigger car.
“I’m just going to move her car seat out for a second,” said Maas as she tried to show us how tight their current small sedan is for the family.
“She has a vent and all her breathing tubes,” said Konkol. “In this car, we would have to put all that in the front seat and she would be in the back seat.”
There simply isn’t enough room in the car they’ve had for years.
“If it was just us and the twins without a bunch of equipment, this would be a fine family car for us,” Maas said.
“We can’t focus on the negative because there’s a lot of things you could focus on that aren’t going right,” Konkol said. “But that’s not how we choose to look at this.”
“She’s happy, and that’s the most important thing to us,” Maas said.
The way little Charlie entered the world may not have been perfect, but these parents see perfection in this little girl every single day.
“She guides all of our decisions,” Maas said. “Just doing what we can to maybe advocate and get something for Charlie so we have that independence.”
“Charlie is who she’s supposed to be,” Konkol said. “And she is happy.”
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