Health

On Thanksgiving, a new dad is grateful he can hold his triplets

Saturnino Izquierdo, a new dad of premature triplets, holds the tiny foot of his daughter Francesca at Miller Children's Hospital on Nov. 24, 2016.
Saturnino Izquierdo, a new dad of premature triplets, holds the tiny foot of his daughter Francesca at Miller Children's Hospital on Nov. 24, 2016.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

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Thanksgiving is a time to hold family close, and Saturnino Izquierdo did just that for about 12 hours Thursday, giving each of his prematurely born triplets four hours of skin-to-skin contact.
    
It's a therapy that's become more common over the years, and one that is emphasized at the neonatal intensive care unit at Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach.

That's where Izquierdo expects to spend much of the next five to six weeks helping his newborns become healthy enough to return to his home in Madrid, Spain.
    
Skin-to-skin contact helps calm the preemies, said Dr. Antoine Soliman, medical director of Miller's neonatal intensive care unit. The contact helps release helpful hormones and lets the still-developing babies reproduce some of the organ-to-organ sensations they felt in the womb that they left too soon.
    
Izquierdo's babies are a boy, Benedict Alessander, and two girls, Diamantine Marie and Francesca Joanne.
    
"To me, they're angels," Izquierdo said, gazing at Benedict through the plastic cover of a clear incubator box that provides consistent temperature and humidity for the tiny boy. His head was covered in a white cap, his arms, legs and torso were mostly uncovered, and his bottom was swaddled in an outsized diaper.

Dr. Antoine Soliman, medical director of the Miller Children's Hospital neonatal intensive care unit with new father Saturnino Izquierdo and baby Francesca.
Dr. Antoine Soliman, medical director of the Miller Children's Hospital neonatal intensive care unit with new father Saturnino Izquierdo and baby Francesca.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

 His sisters were alongside in separate incubator boxes.
    
Since the triplets were born to their surrogate mother a little over a week ago, Izquierdo has been living nearby at the Ronald McDonald House for parents and families of hospitalized children. He planned to share a communal Thanksgiving meal with those families on Thursday.
    
His daily regime of baby-holding sometime means he  gathers all three together on his chest under a light blanket. Izquierdo said that helps the triplets feel more connected to each other as they were during the pregnancy.
    
"They know each other, and they like each other," he said.
    
Thanksgiving isn't a big holiday in his homeland of Spain, Izquierdo said, "But it will be from now on."

Update, June 30, 2017: Francesca Joanne died four months after she was born of necrotizing enterocolitis, an infection and inflammation that affects the bowel and intestines, her father told KPCC.