HOBBS, NEW MEXICO (KCBD) - According to the CDC, one of every 10 infants in the United States was born prematurely in 2016.
This can severely impact the development of the baby's brain, lungs and liver, which are crucial in the final weeks of pregnancy.
Many premature babies deal with a number of medical issues and, some do not survive. But there are fighters, like the Kassis triplets from Hobbs, who beat the odds and despite a long, and difficult journey, grow to be happy, healthy children.
Jack and Jennifer Kassis never imagined this would be their life. After trying for so long to get pregnant, the couple turned to In Vitro Fertilization. When the first round didn't take, they hoped one last try would bring them a baby.
"We had been working so hard for it for so long, I just wanted it to be true so much," Jennifer Kassis said.
But they were in for the surprise of a lifetime.
"The doctor was like, 'Yep, there's a heartbeat, we have a baby!' She's like 'Oh, I think there's a second heartbeat,' and I was like what do you mean there's a second heartbeat, and Jack, I see him he's pointing at the screen, and he says, 'Doctor, I think there's another heartbeat right there, right beside that heartbeat,'" Jennifer said. "And she goes, 'Oh my gosh,' and I said 'What do you mean there's two babies?' and she said, 'No, there's three babies!' And I said, 'What do you mean there's three babies?"
It was like a Thanksgiving miracle -- they hit the trifecta. For Jennifer, the first few months were easy, but after her baby shower that spring, everything changed. She started feeling intense pain and they drove from Hobbs to the emergency room in Lubbock.
"We didn't pack a bag, we didn't bring clothes, because I really just felt like they were going to send me home."
Suddenly, things took a turn for the worse.
"She developed a condition that is called HELLP syndrome. Her blood pressure was sky-high, her liver started failing, and she started bleeding in the peritoneal cavity, so the triplets were compromised," Dr. Fortunato Perez, said.
Jennifer's liver had ruptured. She needed an emergency C-Section before being rushed into surgery herself.
"The last thing I remember is him kissing me goodbye and then getting put to sleep, and then I woke up a couple days later and finally came around enough to know that we had three little-bitty girls," said Jennifer.
Rylie, Sophie, and Zoie were born on April 30, at just 26 weeks, all weighing less than two pounds.
"Dr. Perez came in and said, 'Come here, do you want to see your girls?' And I was like standing in the background and he said, 'Come on, you can come closer,' and I was like, 'I don't want to come closer.' It was pretty freaky, they didn't look real they looked like little plastic dolls," said Jack Kassis.
The triplets were extremely underdeveloped and suffered from a variety of conditions with their eyes, hearts, and infections, all while Jennifer was in and out of the hospital herself after suffering from preeclampsia.
"They said you're going to have ups and down days in the NICU. The IVs and monitors, it's not what you, you know they told us you're babies are going to come early and they're going to be in the NICU, but it doesn't prepare you for what you're going to see and go through," said Jennifer.
In total, they spent four grueling months in the ICU. But it could have been much worse without the quick response from her doctors.
"If she would have remained in Hobbs, New Mexico, I feel that we would have lost the triplets and the mother," Perez said.
And Children's Miracle Network provided life-saving resources.
"If something happened to Jen, I don't know how I would have made it by myself, there's no way. So, I'm just so grateful everything turned out the way it did," said Jack.
"Dr. Perez said, 'The stars were aligned for you, Jen.'"
Now, they have three happy, healthy one-year-olds who are growing stronger every day.
"They finally feel like they're our precious babies, finally," Jennifer said.