Four years ago, Summer and Ryan Erickson were watching the 2016 Academy Awards from a hospital room at Sutter Health’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, just hours before their twin boys were delivered three months premature.
“I remember looking at Leonardo DiCaprio in his tux and all the glitz and glamour of that evening and I was like ‘he is having a very different evening than we are right now’,” Summer Erickson said.
Miles and Walter were born 11 minutes apart on two different days — Miles at 11:58 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2016, and Walter at 12:09 a.m. on Feb. 29. They were 14 weeks premature and both weighed just over 2 pounds.
On Friday, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center held a birthday party for the twins, reuniting them with doctors and nurses who cared for them for 69 days in the facility’s neonatal intensive care unit.
The 4-year-old boys, in matching outfits, enjoyed the frog-themed birthday party, complete with photos of their time in the NICU and large slices of chocolate birthday cake.
Both received frog stuffed animals as presents and swiped frosting off the cake as their parents chatted with the nurses and hospital officials they got to know so well in 2016.
Summer, 42, and Ryan, 37, said they had planned an extravagant party with close to 200 guests this past weekend to celebrate the twins’ birthdays together.
“It’s like we’re throwing a wedding,” Summer Erickson said.
Sutter Health clinical nurse specialist Alison Brooks said the hospital wanted to honor Summer Erickson and have a party, adding, “it’s also very sweet that the boys come back to where they started.”
Summer Erickson said her pregnancy began to complicate around the halfway point and she started visiting the hospital every week or two to ensure the babies’ health wasn’t compromised.
She began to feel contractions just after the 25th week and planned to visit the hospital again, expecting the doctors at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center to reassure her that the twins were in good health as they had during her previous visits.
“We just kind of thought we’d go on our merry way and I come in and they said, ‘well you’re going to be here until you deliver’,” she said.
In addition to the twins’ premature birth, Walter was in the breech position, necessitating an emergency cesarean section. Miles, by contrast, “came flying into the world,” Summer said.
After spending so much time in the intensive care unit, Summer Erickson called the hospital’s staff her family and repeatedly expressed how grateful she and Ryan feel for their care and support.
“We’re grateful for (our doctors and nurses) every single day,” Alta Bates Summit Medical Center interim CEO David Clark said. “And I know they’ve touched your lives.”
Babies born at 25 weeks can face myriad complications, both short-and long-term, Brooks said, including cerebral bleeding, difficulty walking and reading properly, a higher risk of infection, heart problems and intestinal rupture.
However, Miles and Walter have avoided any health complications since their birth and are now “healthy, happy little boys,” Brooks said.
In the future, the Ericksons plan to throw birthdays for Miles and Walter on Feb. 28 in non-leap years and “throw a bomb party” for them every four years.
The pregnancy’s turbulence surprised Summer Erickson in particular because of how easy the birth of the couple’s first son, now 8-year-old Bruce, transpired.
“I couldn’t wait to be pregnant again, like, literally could not wait,” she said. “It was the smoothest, easiest, I felt amazing.”
Since 2020 is the first leap year since Walter and Miles’ births, Summer said Bruce will occasionally tell Walter he’s “zero” rather than four.
“It’s kind of hard to grasp,” she said.
Ultimately, after spending so long in the hospital and receiving “one piece of fortune after another,” Summer said, the couple brought Miles and Walter home in May 2016.
“We went home, the day before Mother’s Day,” Summer said, watching Miles and Walter cut their birthday cake. “Amazing Mother’s Day.”