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Fort Drum spouse fights for life after delivering premature twins

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The Hinman family believes in the power of prayer.

Within just a few days, the story of Jenna Hinman’s rare stage 3 cancer has touched family and friends and strangers so quickly via online support networks that more than 16,000 people are following “Prayers for Jenna” on Facebook, and more than $27,000 has been raised on GoFundMe.

“They thought she was gone about four or five times,” Brandon Hinman, a soldier stationed at Fort Drum, said Thursday from his wife’s room at Crouse Hospital, Syracuse. “The doctor tells me everyday she’s a walking miracle.”

Sgt. Hinman said the couple found out in January they were expecting, and both were ecstatic, since they had been trying for some time. They were shocked when they learned they would have twin girls.

Late February and into March Sgt. Hinman, 30, said his 26-year-old wife became ill, but the couple likened some of the symptoms, which had included vomiting, to something that would soon pass. A few days later, in their Fort Drum home, Mrs. Hinman felt intense pain. They were labor contractions just 1 minute and 45 seconds a part.

Sgt. Hinman, of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, said he could not lift her because she was in so much pain. That was at 6:55 p.m. March 3.

He called 911. The Hinman’s twin girls were coming, at just 30 weeks. There wasn’t enough time to drive to Crouse Hospital where the couple had planned to have the babies delivered. They were advised to go to Samaritan Medical Center — where Mrs. Hinman is employed as a recreational therapist — and were taken there by ambulance. At 7:55 p.m. and 7:56 p.m, military physician Christopher Rumsey delivered Kinleigh Anne and Azlynn Mary via emergency Cesarean section.

Sgt. Hinman, said Mrs. Hinman met her daughters, but Kinleigh and Azlynn were immediately sent to Crouse Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Then, Mrs. Hinman’s oxygen levels began to drop. She was hooked up to an oxygen supply. It wasn’t a blood clot. It wasn’t viral pneumonia.

Mrs. Hinman was scared and crying. She didn’t even get to hold her children.

“The doctor said, ‘Something’s wrong,’” Sgt. Hinman said. “I had to make the decision to put her in a medically-induced coma because she couldn’t breathe on her own.”

The next morning, “Dr. Rumsey promised me they’d test for any known thing out there,” Sgt. Hinman said. A computed tomography scan reveled a group of tumors in the uterus. They had a diagnosis: choriocarcinoma stage 3.

According to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine/the National Institutes of Health, while choriocarcinoma is uncommon it is a “very often curable cancer.” In many cases, a baby may not even develop. Chemotherapy treatment is common, but sometimes radiation therapy or a hysterectomy is needed.

Mrs. Hinman is receiving chemotherapy treatment.

Dr. Rumsey made contact with Crouse, and Mrs. Hinman was sent there March 6. By the time she arrived, her tumors had doubled in size, Sgt. Hinman said, and the cancer spread to her lungs. Mrs. Hinman’s condition had already rapidly deteriorated, and she was put on a extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine to oxyginate her blood before returning it back to her body.

The medical team at Crouse got right to work, he said. They’ve also been in contact with a specialist in London. Attempts to reach Crouse’s public relations department Thursday were unsuccessful.

“They’ve never treated it like they have for my wife,” he said. “They said they’ve never seen it in their lifetime. The ICU doctors and doctors’ team tell me every day it really is unbelievable and my wife is a miracle and no way she should have survived this long. It’s all like a bad dream I can’t wake up from.”

The bad dream is in real time, as Sgt. Hinman said he’s lucky if he’s able to sleep two hours each night.

Several times a day, he said, he talks to his wife, telling her all about Azlynn and Kinleigh, and encouraging her to keep fighting. His first moments as a father are shared with Mrs. Hinman in spirit, he said, from the NICU. Most newborns have skin-to-skin contact with their mother after birth, but Sgt. Hinman has taken that role. He said although he visits his babies up to a dozen times each day, every night he tucks them in his shirt and cuddles them.

As soon as he talks, they open their eyes and wiggle around, he said.

“They know me,” Sgt. Hinman said.

The girls could be in the NICU for as many as eight weeks, but they’ve already remarkably improved, he said. They no longer need breathing tubes, and are starting to put on weight. Azlynn was just 3.6 pounds at birth, and Kinleigh was just shy of three pounds.

Intense mixed emotions surround him, Sgt. Hinman said. While he is his wife’s and daughters’ rock, his family, friends and thousands of strangers have become his foundation. He contacted the American Red Cross, which then contacted Fort Drum officials. Sgt. Hinman said he was told to take all of the time he needs to be by his new family’s side.

“It was definitely a burden lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “She’s my life. God gave her the patience with anyone. She saved my life.”

Now, he’s trying to save hers.

Nearly six years ago he went out with buddies in a bar near his hometown of Weedsport. He didn’t want to go out, but ended up meeting his future wife, a Port Byron native. They married Dec. 22, 2010, and Sgt. Hinman was deployed to Afghanistan the following year. He said the couple will survive this.

“My three girls are in ICU,” he said. “No matter what happens, my girls still need me.”

He said he can’t wait for the day his wife really gets to meet their baby girls.

“My hope, which I know because I know my wife, is she’s going to stand up and she, my girls and me are going to walk out of here as a family,” he said. “Seeing how the people have been, I hope people realize there are good people out there. You’re not alone, especially in bad times. You just have to keep breathing.”

That support network comes largely from a part of the “Prayers for Jenna” Facebook page, and the GoFundMe website, he said. Strangers have left well-wishes and both small and large monetary donations. All funds, he said, will be “very well spent on good things and for my children to start a good life.”

Money also will help cover many hotel stays, food and travel expenses, and medical costs not covered by insurance, he said. The online fundraising site was started by Mrs. Hinman’s uncle John J. Warter III just a few days ago.

For more information, search “Prayers for Jenna” on www.Facebook.com, or search “The Hinman Fund” on www.gofundme.com.

in the know
Here are some facts about choriocarcinoma, a rare form of cancer:
• It affects 2 to 7 of every 100,000 pregnancies in the nation
• It is more common in Asian and African countries
• The gestational trophoblastic tumors account for less than 1 percent of female reproductive system cancers
• It is a group of tumors that “involve abnormal growth cells inside a woman’s uterus,” and they “start in cells that would normally develop into the placenta during pregnancy.”
• Quickly spreads to organs away from the uterus
• Treatment involves intensive combination of chemotherapy
• Can also be found in males, as an aggressive form of testicular cancer
Information provided by the American Cancer Society
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