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Brainerd mom feels doubly blessed despite son's upcoming surgery

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Even though life right now is not going the way Carol Kenyon hoped it would go, the Brainerd mom feels truly blessed.

This Mother’s Day she is the proud mother of two back-to-back fraternal twins. Kenyon and Joe Poegel have their girls Tabitha and Anna Poegel, who will be 2 years old on July 7 — and then their infant sons, Eli and Benjiman, who were born on March 30.

Eli was born a healthy boy, but Benjiman was born with a congenital heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot that causes low oxygen levels in the blood. He also has pulmonary atresia which is where the pulmonary artery is either small or not developed at all.

Kenyon and Poegel found out the news that Benjiman had the heart condition when she was 21 weeks along during her pregnancy. They scheduled to have the baby boys born at the University of Minnesota’s Amplatz Children’s Hospital. Kenyon had the boys naturally, just like she did the girls.

Benjiman has been at the hospital ever since and the family is waiting for doctors to perform open heart surgery on him. Doctors are waiting for the baby to grow bigger and stronger before surgery, and surgery could take place anywhere from now until when Benjiman is 7-months-old.

According to PubMed Health website, most cases can be corrected with surgery. Babies who have surgery usually do well and more than 90 percent survive to adulthood and live active, healthy, and productive lives.

Since the babies birth, the couple — who had to take a long-term leave from their jobs — their twin girls and Eli have been staying in a one-room bedroom at the Ronald McDonald House.

“We’re hoping to get into a bigger one, but we’re grateful we’re all together,” said Kenyon. “We’re just taking it one day at a time.”

Kenyon and Poegel said one of the most difficult things right now is that no children are allowed in the Intensive Care Unit, so their girls and Eli cannot see their brother. They also have to be careful when they hold Benjiman because of germs that could easily cause him infections.

“There was one week where we couldn’t hold him because he had an infection,” said Poegel. “But you just have to go with it because there is nothing you can do. We try to keep a good attitude. Our Staples doctor, Carol Uhlman told us that we were the easiest couple to get along with. We just go with the flow and hope for the best.”

The family has not been home a lot since the birth of their sons, but they hope to be home soon. And before the family will be able to move back home, they are trying to work on an addition to their home.

“We only have a small two-bedroom house,” said Poegel. “We need more room so we are adding on.”

Kenyon and Poegel said they feel lucky to have their children.

“When I was 12 I was hit by a David Brown tractor,” said Kenyon. “I had broken bones and collapsed lungs and they didn’t know how my body would react. They told me that I may not be able to have children. At the time I really didn’t think of it ... and we really never talked about having children.”

Poegel said before they had their girls, Kenyon had a dream that they’d have two boys and two girls.

“Well we did, but he had our two girls first,” said Poegel. “When we found out we were having twins, I almost passed out. I was overwhelmed. Then the second time they told us we were having twins, I was still shocked, but we are blessed with our children.”

Kenyon and Poegel said their daughter Anna is their outgoing twin, who loves tigers, loves being outside and her attitude is like a bear’s. Their daughter Tabitha is more shy, she loves to be outside and she wants to know about everything.

Poegel said life has been chaotic, but they have appreciated all the support and donations they’ve received from family, friends and businesses.

“I’m not one to take charity, it’s depressing for me to take something,” said Poegel. “But we appreciate all that people have done for us.”

A benefit for Benjiman has been held to help pay for medical expenses, but if people want to donate to the family, donations can be sent to the attention of Dayna Jillson at Affinity Plus.

Poegel said these past few weeks it has taken a lot of faith and the family asks God to watch over their children.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at