UP Catholic 12 23 2016 E Edition Page 18

BY CAROL HOLLENBECK THE U.P. CATHOLIC Children are a gift from God. No one can attest to that more strongly than a couple who deeply desires children but is unable to have them. That was the situation for Michael and Melissa Kowalski, Marinette, Wis. But they learned that sometimes prayers are answered in unique ways. They are now the parents of twins Jacob and Cyris, 9, and Blaiden, 2. All three were born with health issues and none came to the Kowalskis through "regu- lar" channels. "The kids all came on their own," Melissa said. "Literally, the night before, Mike and I were talking about starting a family and how to do that. The next day, we got the phone call about Jacob. At first, I thought they called to ask me to babysit. But they were asking us to adopt Jacob." Jacob and Cyris had a condition called twin to twin trans- fusion, in which one twin receives most of the blood and nutrients, and the other receives only a little. They were born Nov. 10, 2007, four months premature. Cyris stayed in the hospital for three months. Jacob was born with a bleed in his brain which left him with cerebral palsy, two abdominal hernias, detached retinas which were repaired but left him legally blind, a hole in his heart and seizures. Jacob was in the hospital for five months. His birth parents felt they could not give him the care he required, and asked the Kowalskis to adopt him. The Kowalskis had been taking in foster care children for 11 years prior to this. Those were often special needs children, and even with severe behavioral issues, Melissa said. "It really didn't matter that Jacob had problems," she said. "I wanted to be a mom so bad, I knew I would love him to pieces." Jacob weighed 4 lbs, 2 oz. when Mike and Melissa brought him home. He was on nine medicines, oxygen and a heart monitor, and needed to be fed every two hours. "I had to learn about all of it," Melissa said. "It was a pretty big learn- ing curve." Cyris continued to live with his birth parents in northeast- ern Wisconsin. The families maintained contact, visiting every other weekend so the twins would know each other. In October 2014, the Kowalskis were asked to adopt anoth- er special needs baby. Blaiden was born with drug addictions. Although Melissa had just started studying nursing, she and Mike agreed to adopt Blaiden. Now 2 years old, Blaiden is do- ing well. "He's developing beautifully and he's really smart," Melissa said. "We're very blessed that he's OK." Mike and Melissa enrolled Jacob in St. John Paul II Acade- my in Menominee. Although he weighs only 45 lbs. at 9 years old, he is very active. "He's amazing," Melissa said. "He's been swimming and skating since he was 2 1/2." Jacob was thriving at the academy, and was accepted by his classmates and staff there. Melissa was in school full time, working part time and caring for Jacob and Blaiden. Mike was working for K&K Logistics and his own company, Mike Kowalski Building and Maintenance. But they were struggling financially. Then last May, they were asked to take Jacob's twin, Cyris. While they were elated that their dream of reuniting the twins would be fulfilled, the question of money seemed over- whelming. "I was choking back tears for a month over what to do," Melissa said. "We saw no real way of paying for both of them 18 December 23, 2016 THE U.P. CATHOLIC www.upcatholic.org Set of twins separated at birth are reunited forever SEE TWINS, PAGE 19 Father Francis Dobrzenski Parishioners of Saint Joseph Church Father Francis, We are very grateful for your ministry in the Lake Linden and Hubbell areas. May God bless your future endeavors! Attention business owners! How about resolving to make The U.P. Catholic Newspaper part of your advertising buy? Our readers make great customers! Contact Dcn. Steve 1-866-452-5112 upc@new.rr.com COURTESY PHOTO Jacob and Cyris Kowalski together shortly after their birth in November of 2007.

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