"We have no idea why the placenta does this. As for treatment, there is no clear right or wrong answer," Cole said. "Each patient has their own risk factors. A parent has to trust who they are dealing with, and the physician should give as much info about not only the treatment but also its positive and negative side effects for the particular babies."
"Laura's very pushy when she needs to be. She pushed and she researched," Todd Ballard said, choking up as he recalled his families ordeal. "She was always pushing the envelope to save her babies."
The couple was told that besides draining fluid in the womb, there was a new, riskier method of treatment that involved twin-to-twin laser therapy. In that treatment, which is performed in only a select number of hospitals nationwide, doctors take a laser and fetus scope and look at the placenta.
"Both the treatments involve a needle. The laser therapy is more invasive. It carries a higher risk than simply draining fluid," Cole said. "There are some who try a combination of both. The decision is always based on how badly the babies are affected, and what stage of the pregnancy the baby is."
Doctors then use a laser to try to disrupt or block blood vessels that are contributing to the unbalanced blood flow. The treatment was described as a potential death sentence for the smaller Berkley.
"It really did seem like a last resort. But at 22 weeks my doctor said it's time for us to go," Laura Ballard said.
With Mother's Day looming, the couple left their other three children behind and traveled to the University of California, San Francisco, for the surgery.
"They had talked about lasering Berkley's supply altogether in an effort to save Kensley. We told them we did not prefer for that to happen, but if that was the only option than it was OK," Ballard said.
The surgery lasted an hour and a half. Nine weeks later, she delivered both girls.
Researchers are still trying to determine the root cause of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, which only affects identical twins. Cole said that for families facing this crisis and deciding whether to risk laser therapy there is one important thing to determine first.
"Make sure that the facility you choose is not only able to take care of the mother and the baby if things go well, but also if it doesn't," Cole said.
Laura Ballard's advice is simple.
"Don't give up," she said. "Just fight and fight for your babies. There is hope. You are not going to know until the end. But you can only do as much as you can, and the rest is in God's hand."