MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Calif. - Between helping his wife change 80 diapers a day and prepping 40 bottles of daily baby formula for their newborn quintuplets, Chad Kempel has been shopping for a new family rig.
He needs a 15-seat passenger van for the five babies, the couple’s two other small daughters, his wife Amy and himself. He’s haggled with at least nine sales people but so far no one has come in under his $30,000 budget.
And time is running out.
“We are not able to drive anywhere with our entire family together. We don’t have the space and the babies’ appointments are starting this week and they are in three different cities. Safety is also of the utmost importance,’’ said Chad Kempel, 36.
Two and a half months after the Kempel quintuplets came into the world, the last two of the five babies came home to the San Joaquin Valley city of Mountain house on Sunday.
But long before Lincoln, Noelle, Grayson, Preston and Gabriella arrived home, Chad and Amy Kempel had literally transformed their modest two-story into a high-tech baby nursery complete with video monitors on every crib, oxygen, breathing and heart rate monitors on every baby and swaying infant seats complete with MP3 player hook ups.
“The babies coming home is so huge for us,’’ said Chad Kempel, in a YouTube video he made to thank the massive staff of doctors and nurses that cared for the babies in the Kaiser Walnut Creek neo natal intensive care unit for 73 days.
Because the babies, who all weighed under 3 pounds each when they were born by cesarean section 13 weeks premature on Jan. 11, are considered “medically fragile,’’ visitors must follow a strict set of rules when coming to visit.
That starts at the front door where a small, colorful framed sign instructs visitors to “remove their shoes, wash their hands and use sanitizer often” among other things.
“Absolutely no kisses. Leave your cell phones in the basket by the door. Do not enter if you are sick, have recently been sick, have been around someone who is sick or are recently vaccinated,’’ the sign instructs.
But already, Chad Kempel said visitors need a stronger warning about what needs to be done before visiting the quintuplets.
“People just think it’s a nice picture,’’ he said, pulling out his cell phone to show the new black and white warning sign “Take off shoes. Wash hands. Sanitize your phone. If you think there is a 1 percent chance you are sick: go home. Our babies will die.”
Although all but one baby is off oxygen and the babies have doubled in size since birth, the Kempels have every imaginable gadget to keep tabs on the infant’s breathing, heart rates and oxygen levels. A diaper clip monitors their breathing and sets off a fire-alarm like alert if breathing stops. It also vibrates to stimulate the breathing.
Each baby wears a little green sock that can show the Kempels the infant’s individual heart rates and oxygen levels via their iPad. If the sock falls off, it plays a little gentle chime. Five Motorola monitors allow the couple to not only hear the babies, but see their faces when they are tucked away in their white cribs.
To understand how rare quintuplets are, consider this: of the nearly four million babies born in 2015 (the last year for which data is available) only 24 women gave birth to five babies at once. The odds of conceiving quintuplets naturally are one in 60 million, though the odds are higher with fertility help, which the Kempels had.
While the couple adjusts to their new life with the quintuplets, they are forever grateful to the team of Kaiser nurses and doctors who kept the babies stable and cared for and to the companies and friends who have donated or discounted formula, diapers and baby carriers and clothes.
Still, they are asking for financial assistance on a gofundme page in hopes of raising thousands to help with medical costs.
But for right now, what they really need is that 15-passenger van.