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Release of Likeness

Despite a blood typing mix-up that led to life-threatening risks for Heidi Horoshak’s children, a family celebrates today because the right blood type was there, when and where it was needed.

Rachel and John HoroshakOriginally blood typed in the Army in 1985, Heidi Horoshak spent the following years believing she was A positive (+). But in 1991 after a miscarriage, her body began creating antibodies that fight a fetus’ Rh positive factor in the blood. Soon after Heidi became pregnant again, she started bleeding whenever she stood up. An ultrasound revealed that she was carrying twins. Heidi recalls, “While one of the twins was fine—today my 18-year-old son, Alex—the other fetus was miscarrying. My blood and the other twin’s blood were getting mixed which was, again, increasing my level of antibodies.” Further testing revealed that Heidi’s blood type was actually A negative (-). And although she was given a rhogam shot to try and prevent further antibodies from attacking little Alex, it was too late.

Heidi remembers, “Alex’s blood was slowly being destroyed by my antibodies. A weekly amniocentesis helped determine if an emergency C-section might be needed but, happily, Alex made it to full term. He was severely jaundiced, however, and received a blood transfusion at Minneapolis Children’s right after he was born. Thanks to generous blood donors and excellent medical care, Alex was on the road to recovery. And although doctors told me that my next pregnancy would have similar complications, at least now we knew what we were facing – or at least that’s what we thought!”

One year later Heidi was living in remote northern Minnesota, expecting another set of twins. At her first appointment with a perinatology specialist in Minneapolis, she received the news: the twin fetuses would require regular intrauterine blood transfusions in order to survive, and the first of many would be performed that very day.

Because this type of specialized procedure had never before been performed at Heidi’s local hospital, her perinatologist traveled to Duluth for subsequent transfusions—and elevated Heidi, her husband, Bob, and the babies to celebrity status. “Many people gathered in the operating room to observe as a needle was inserted into Rachel and then Jon’s umbilical cords or, if necessary, into their tummies for absorption,” according to Heidi. “Rachel was always given blood first and then a paralyzing drug to keep her from kicking Jon and the needles.” Despite such care, at 30 weeks Jon’s umbilical cord was accidentally nicked during a transfusion. Heidi recalls, “It was probably the scariest moment of my life when the doctor said, “We’re taking them”. The anesthesiologist had me take a deep breath and when I came to, the twins were in NICU on life support. Over the next two months, they received multiple blood transfusions.”

Today all three of the Horoshak children are healthy and happy. “We are so fortunate and grateful that we were in a place that had everything they needed—generous supplies of the right type of blood and excellent medical care—to come into this world and survive!”

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Don’t know your blood type? Learn about donating the right type for your type in About Blood.