From the NICU to graduation day: Twins born at 23 weeks defy the odds to get their diplomas

Twins born 17 weeks early defy odd to get their diplomas

WALTON COUNTY, Ga. — On the day her sons were born, Telmeko Ransom wondered if this day would ever come.

“There was a long time I couldn’t even fathom it. It didn’t even seem like it was possible that it would ever happen,” the Georgia mom said.

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But 19 years later, her sons, John and Jamison Smith, defied the odds and graduated from high school together.

It’s a special moment for any high school senior, but for John and Jamison, the road they faced to make it to this day made it that much more meaningful.

The twin boys were born 17 weeks early, each weighing just over 1 pound. They were considered “super preemies.”

Ransom went into labor at 22 weeks. Doctors managed to delay their birth for nearly a week, but the twins were born on the first day of her 23rd week. Ransom says they were given a less than 30% survival rate.

At that moment, Ransom didn’t know what the future held for them, and graduating from high school seemed like something that might never happen.

After nearly five months in the neonatal intensive care unit at Gwinnett Medical Center, the boys finally came home, but the challenges were just beginning.

John and Jamison spent years overcoming numerous health issues, hospitalizations and illnesses. They both suffered detached retinas, leaving John with vision problems and Jamison legally blind. They began special education preschool at 3 years old and didn’t walk until they were nearly 4.

Over the years, they each spent months in and out of hospitals – and each time, their mom feared the worst.

“Every time one of them went into the hospital with a major surgery I thought, ‘OK, we made it this far. I’m very blessed they did,’ and then they’d overcome,” Ransom said.

In January, John was hospitalized for weeks with serious complications of Type 1 diabetes. But despite all of this, her sons persevered.

“It is nothing short of miracle,” Ransom said. “They are very destined to be here.”

She said the twins got each other through the hard times, from hospital stays to losing their younger sister this past summer, and now they get to see each other step into the future.

“They both have had to sit in a chair in a hospital room and watch their brother be very sick, and now they get to watch each other move onto their next steps,” she said. “I think for them, the fact that they came into this together and they made it together is amazing.”

Next year, John will attend Georgia Piedmont Tech and enroll in the film program. Jamison will transition to the Georgia Academy for the Blind in Macon and move into independent living as he learns job skills.

Ransom said her sons are proof that you can do anything you want to do and be anything you want to be despite the obstacles in your life. She said the most important thing is to just to be who you are.

“You can be you in this world and it be OK. You are perfect. You are good enough just as you are. Not everybody’s path is going to be the same. Some people are gonna go to Harvard, and some will go to Georgia Tech, and others will go to work and that’s OK. Your path will not be the same as anybody else … You just have to be the best at who you are and you’ll succeed,” she said.

Ransom said the whole family planned to come from Michigan to attend the boys’ graduation from Monroe Area High School, but plans were changed because of the coronavirus. So now, the family plans to celebrate John and Jamison’s graduation virtually.

Congratulations to John, Jamison and the entire class of 2020!

Stock photo of a graduation cap.
Stock photo of a graduation cap. (Nay Ni Ratn Mak Can Thuk / EyeEm / Getty Images)