Born to Kara McBurney and Scott McBurney from Missouri, USA, fraternal triplets Lorne, Isaac, and Sullivan were born 17 days 18 hours 55 minutes apart, making them the latest record holders for the longest interval between births of triplets.
Lorne, who now goes by the nickname Alex, was 1 lb 5 oz (0.59 kg) when he was born and was the first of the trio to make his grand debut on 20 September 2004.
Over two weeks later, on 8 October 2004, Isaac, who was born at 1 lb 14 oz (0.85 kg), and Sullivan who was born at 1 lb 11 oz (0.76 kg), were once again reunited with their “big” brother.
“Alex was born at 23 weeks and my doctor was like ‘Well, we can try this thing that I’ve never tried before and deliver just him [Alex] but leave the other two in because it’s going to be much better for their health’.”
Although Kara and her doctor unfortunately couldn’t delay Alex’s arrival, they decided it would be best to try and pause Kara’s labour and keep her pregnant with Isaac and Sullivan as long as they could.
Kara was immediately placed on bedrest and remained pregnant for an additional 18 days before finally welcoming her other two sons and being showered with triple the love.
From the very beginning, Kara says her pregnancy proved to be difficult, adding that her body was just not meant to carry three babies at once.
“My cervix, which is the part that kind of holds the baby in, was just not strong enough to hold three kids in,” said Kara.
“I actually had a couple of surgeries to try and stitch it together and try and keep the kids in.”
But it’s said that good things come in threes, so how is it that Kara got so lucky?
“Twins and triplets don’t really run in our family. We had done some infertility treatments and we knew there was an increased chance.” – Kara McBurney
“They basically told us ‘You might have twins. Sometimes we have twins, but usually we just have one baby’,” Kara continued.
The chances of falling pregnant with triplets are one in about 10 thousand pregnancies, but when fertility assistance is used, the likelihood increases to around one in every 40.
The main reason for this is the practice of transferring more than one embryo at a time during an IVF cycle.
Until recently, most fertility doctors routinely transferred multiple embryos in the hope of achieving a better chance of success.
“When I went in for that first ultrasound, and I was by myself because my husband was in the hospital, they told me there were three babies in there,” said Kara.
“I burst into tears, and it was funny because the person doing the sonogram asked if they were happy tears, but I was like ‘I don’t really know yet’.”
Kara recalls being overwhelmed with all the information she had to take in at once, which inconveniently happened to come at a time when her husband was having his leg amputated due to a work-related injury.
“I was in the hospital and Kara came in and showed me the picture of the sonogram and I looked at it and said, ‘What the hell is this?’ because I didn’t know what I was looking at,” Scott recalled.
“I just saw three blobs. She [Kara] said, ‘We’re having triplets’, and we both started crying from excitement.”
Just over 17 weeks after finding out she was expecting triplets, Kara once again found herself in the labour and delivery room where she went into active labour with Alex.
“On 20 September, I was actually on my way to physical therapy and Kara called me, very upset and frantic and said ‘You need to come to the hospital, I think they’re coming’,” said Scott.
“I got to the hospital very rapidly and realised I could run with my prosthesis…because I was very scared.” – Scott McBurney
Upon arriving at the hospital, doctors worked with the McBurneys to quickly put together a game plan for safely delivering the triplets.
“We loved all three babies very much and wanted to do what we could for each one individually,” said Kara.
“They put me completely to sleep and when I woke up and asked the nurse what happened, she said they were able to complete the plan we had decided on and get just Alex out, and that I was still pregnant with the other two.”
Kara was wheeled down to the NICU to meet her firstborn before inevitably being placed on bedrest.
Over the next 17 days, doctors did everything within their power to keep Kara from delivering the remaining babies, including positioning her bed at an angle to keep the weight off her cervix.
When the big day finally arrived, Kara was rolled into the operating room in preparation for a caesarean section.
Although she was able to birth Isaac naturally, Sullivan changed positions at the last minute and had to be delivered via c-section.
“I got to be in the operating room for Isaac, and everything was going great,” said Scott.
“They get Isaac and rush him out, and then it’s Sullivan’s turn. He actually turned breech on us, so I had to leave because they had to do a c-section on Kara.” – Scott McBurney
Both boys joined their “older” brother Alex in the NICU, where they stayed for 77 days before being released just a few days before Christmas.
Because Alex was almost three weeks more premature than his brothers, his NICU stay was much more eventful, requiring a longer stay and a ventilator.
“He had several blood transfusions, and obviously he wasn’t able to eat yet, so he was being fed through an IV,” Kara recalled.
“He [Alex] also had a heart surgery when he was five weeks old for a valve in his heart that was supposed to close when he was born.” – Kara McBurney
Scott said one of the hardest parts of the entire experience was helping his wife remain positive.
“Kara was carrying triplets but didn’t get the full experience of being pregnant, and so I knew that it was very hard for her to accept,” said Scott.
“The whole time we were alert because we knew it was a high-risk pregnancy.”
Alex was finally released from the NICU on 25 January 2005 after a 126-day stay, only to be home for 24 hours before having to be reintubated at the hospital for another month.
“Alex was sick for a long time, and we had a lot of complications and a lot of doctors’ appointments. He was in and out of the hospital the first two years of his life,” said Kara.
“But to see them now at 17 and 18 years old…they’re awesome.”
Today, the boys still struggle with some of the lasting effects from their prematurity, including asthma and impaired vision, but are otherwise happy and healthy.
“I am so proud of the people they’ve become and the things they’ve overcome.”- Kara McBurney
“They had a lot of odds stacked against them.”
Although the McBurney family never sought to break a record, they are thrilled to have been recognised for such a unique record title.
“It feels really great being a Guinness World Records holder. It’s a nice bragging right to friends and nice for [the game] ‘Two Truths and a Lie’, said Isaac, the middle triplet.
“My mom went through so much and now she has something tangible to show.” – Isaac McBurney