DALLAS — There are 50 tiny fingers to wrap around the heart of new dad Rex Clark.
They belong to Vianca, Alessandra, Perrin, Noah, and Scarlett — three girls and two boys, quintuplets born at Parkland Memorial Hospital on June 17.
Ofa and Rex Clark weren't even trying to get pregnant when they found out they were expecting five. At first, sonograms showed four babies, the fifth was discovered “hiding” behind a sibling a month later.
“We were in shock,” Ofa said. “The doctor asked us, 'Have you done anything IVF or IUI or injections?' And I said, 'No.'"
Ofa had taken one dose of a fertility medication also used to treat polycystic ovarian disease. She did not expect to get pregnant, and never imagined a pregnancy with multiples.
It took weeks of planning and practicing the delivery with a team of more than 50 staffers from Parkland and UT Southwestern Medical Center to bring them safely into the world.
"It's kind of a complicated ballet to get five teams,” explained Dr. Myra Wyckoff, a neonatologist and associate professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern. “Pediatricians, nurses, respiratory therapists to take each baby and start the initial stabilization."
Ofa spent two months under doctor supervised rest at Parkland. She made it to 31 weeks gestation before little Scarlett (known as “the feisty one”) broke her amniotic sac and forced Ofa into labor.
Scarlett was born last, but is the largest of the quints at 2 pounds, 15 ounces. Allesandra is the smallest and weighs just one pound, 12 ounces.
"I don't think I've ever held a baby that small,” said their proud father. “First time it's kind of scary, because they're so small and delicate."
On Tuesday night, baby Perrin had an operation to correct a problem with his intestines. These babies face the typical challenges for micro-preemies, but are considered healthy otherwise.
They are expected to spend at least two months in Parkland’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Quintuplets are considered a rare occurrence. Of the estimated two million births annually in the United States, about 40 sets are quintuplets, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Purposeful use of fertility medications has increased the number of multiples in recent years.
Parkland has one of the busiest labor and delivery wards in the nation. The last set of quintuplets was born at Parkland in the late 90s.
Dr. Wyckoff was part of the team back then, too.
“I’ve been present for over 300,000 deliveries in that 20 years, and we've had two sets of quints during that 20 years,” she said.
Ofa is from the Philippines, and cannot work until standard immigration issues are resolved. Her husband, Rex, repairs violins.
They live in a small home, and know that they will face financial challenges in caring for five children. They are expected to go through an estimated 1,500 diapers a month.
Nevertheless, the Clarks say they feel blessed to have the support of family, friends, and the hospital team.
Ofa summed it up this way: "Truly amazing.”
Amazing, too, that the quints were born on the couple's second wedding anniversary. Next year, instead of a romantic dinner and flowers, they'll celebrate with five birthday cakes.