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August 21, 2012

Benefit set for Mercer preemie twin boys

MERCER — Three sisters and their friends have combined forces to help preemie twin brothers born to a Mercer couple.

Kelly Williamson, 30, of Grove City has been friends with Jayme Lipnichan, 29, since sixth grade and both have worked as nurses at Grove City Medical Center in Pine Township.

But Jayme and her husband, Chris, 29, have lately had a tough time.

On April 25, she gave birth to twin sons, Jace and Blake, via Cesarean section, at Magee Womens Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh.

"The doctors didn't see any movement from Jace and were concerned," Williamson said. Jayme had been sick her entire pregnancy, and doctors already knew Jace - who was born first - had a kidney problem.

The boys came into the world 11 weeks early. Jace weighed 1 lb., 15 oz., and Blake weighed 2 lb., 12 oz. and were immediately placed in Magee's neonatal intensive care unit.

After a couple of weeks, Jace and Blake were transferred to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and on June 11 their mother went into Magee for gallbladder surgery, which resulted in complications that landed her a 30-day stay.

Blake, the stronger of her boys, was brought home by his dad on Father's Day, June 17, after 62 days between Magee and Children's, while his mom recovered at Magee. Jayme had also just overcome her second battle with cancer earlier this year.

Jace continues to recover from kidney - as well as lung - problems, and last month was given a strong antibiotic from Japan to fight off an infection, as he was immune to other antibiotics.

"He's definitely a miracle baby," Williamson said.

Jayme hasn't been released back to work and her mom, Cathy Skwartz, has taken leave from Grove City Medical Center, where she also works as a nurse, to help her daughter, son-in-law and grandson, Williamson noted.

Friends are also taking turns babysitting and cooking for the family, which they keep track of through an online calendar.

In the meantime, Willamson's sisters, Katelyn Blakley, a sales representative with Nestlé Company, and Jennifer Peterson, a nanny, both of Pittsburgh, take turns rocking Jace at Children's when his parents aren't able to make the drive "so he'll hear a familiar voice," Williamson said.

On June 10, friends of the Lipnichans participated in a "March for Babies" walk at PNC Park in Pittsburgh in honor of Jace and Blake, which raised $1,415 for the March of Dimes Foundation.

Friends also set up an account for the family at Citizens Bank for donors to give to the "Jace and Blake Benefit Fund" at any branch location. It now has about $200, Williamson said.

But the Lipnichans need much more. Williamson and Blakley have been busy organizing a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to help with skyrocketing medical expenses. According to the March of Dimes, just one premature baby's intensive care medical bill can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then, in the first year after release from a hospital, medical bills can mount to $50,000 for each child.

The spaghetti dinner will be held at Grace United Methodist Church, 210 S. Broad St., Grove City, from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 24. Cost will be $10 for adults; $5 for kids 4 to 12; and free for kids under 4.

Businesses are being solicited to donate gift items or certificates for a Chinese auction at the fundraiser. Any business wishing to donate may do so by Saturday.

Some items donated so far have been a $100 gift certificate from Joden Jewelers, Grove City; overnight stays and gift certificates to Elephant & Castle by both the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn, all Springfield Township; autographed memorabilia and tickets from the Pittsburgh Pirates; movie tickets and popcorn from the Guthrie Theater, Grove City; a gift basket from Verizon; and discounted T-shirts from retired Grove City policeman Larry Cole, which will be sold as a fundraiser at the dinner.

Pizza Joes in Grove City and Mercer have donated lettuce for salad at the dinner. Lingle's Farm is donating vegetables for the salad, Williamson added. "A family friend who works with Slippery Rock University's food service got them to donate sauce and pasta for 250 people."

Another friend who is a member at Grace got the church to donate the use of its facility for free.

"It's so nice to see so many people who helped," Williamson said. "At first, we were afraid Jayme would be offended but she's overwhelmed with appreciation.

"So many people keep asking me and my sister, 'What can we do to help?' This is a way to help. We got a lot of support (for the benefit dinner) and I think we will have a good turnout."

Blake has been thriving at home. "A week after he came back home, he had to go back to Children's for hernia surgery, but he's up to about 10 pounds," she said.

Jace is up to about seven pounds now but still has "ups and downs," Williamson added. He is not expected to be released from Children's until late September.

For info or to donate, please call Kelly Williamson at 724-991-5491 or Katelyn Blakley at 724-992-1624 and visit www.jaceand blake.com

Published Aug. 15, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.

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