The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

May 17, 2012

Family of triplets born before tornado celebrates first year

JOPLIN, Mo. — Things are looking up on Marigold Drive in a subdivision northwest of Joplin.

It’s now home to the Harper triplets, born May 17, 2011, at Freeman Hospital West to Jayme and Chris Harper.

Because they were born eight weeks early, the three faced many long-term health problems.

But it also meant they escaped the EF-5 tornado that bore down on their Jackson Avenue home on May 22 and leveled it, scattering cribs, diapers and new clothes they never had the chance to wear.

Addison, the feisty one at 1.13 pounds, was born first, followed by Lauren, the more laid-back of the three, weighing 2.2 pounds. Reagan, the last to make an appearance, was the biggest at 3.11 pounds.

Joplin’s Ronald McDonald House would become home for the parents for several weeks until they could find and purchase the home on Marigold Drive. It would be months before they would all sleep under its roof for the first time.

In early July, Reagan was the first to leave Freeman, weighing 6.9 pounds. Addison was next on Aug. 11, weighing 5.7 pounds. But Lauren required multiple surgeries at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City to correct a congenital heart condition, and she wouldn’t come home for good until December.

In the past year, the triplets did what all babies do: They grew, they cut teeth, they began making sounds.

They also did things most babies don’t: They made weekly trips to Kansas City and Springfield to see medical specialists. Their parents keep a three-ring binder of details related to their care, their medications and their appointments. It is now an inch thick.

They all had speech and physical therapy; Lauren relied on a pacemaker and a feeding tube.

Given their most unusual first year, it was fitting that on Thursday, the triplets celebrated their first birthday in a most unusual way. The family members made the rounds to Health Essentials, a medical supply company they came to rely on for their daily needs; the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Freeman, where the babies spent months in recovery; and the Ronald McDonald House.

“You get to know them so well,” Jayme Harper said of those who have helped the family. “They became an extended part of us, and we wanted to show everyone how much the girls have grown and to tell them how much we appreciate all they’ve done for us.”

And then the girls returned home to a birthday present like no other: Joplin Pool & Spa installed an 18-foot-round, above-ground pool in the family’s backyard to accommodate the triplets’ ongoing physical therapy needs.

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May 2011 Joplin tornado
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