Jessica Caldwell, Cora, Jeffrey Walters and Sam. Photo courtesy of the family.

By Megan M. Spencer

It’s commonly said that it takes a village to raise a child; certainly twins. Two of Ocracoke’s newest residents will attest to that. Cora Ann and Samuel David Walters were born 12 weeks premature on September 11, 2013, to parents Jeffrey Walters and Jessica Caldwell, who live along Back Road.  Cora came first, weighing two pounds, five ounces, and Sam followed a minute later at a weight of one pound, nine ounces.

The new family spent the remainder of the fall, the winter and much of the early spring at the Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters (CHKD) in Norfolk, Va., as doctors helped the twins develop and grow.  Cora “graduated” in late November and was able to leave the hospital. Due to care needs and the strains of the long trip home, she was unable to come to the island right away. She stayed with both of her parents in an apartment near the hospital to be close to her little brother, as well as her doctors. She did make the trip to meet her new friend Victor McNally, son of Ocracoke residents Sarah Batchelor and Scott McNally. Victor was born shortly after Cora was released from the hospital.
“She came to the island for New Year’s,” said Jessica.

By January, the family had lived in their temporary Norfolk home for three months. Jessica and Jeffrey were hopeful that Sam would be able to come home in a few weeks. So, they began preparations to come back to Ocracoke, but Sam still needed medical care. Little did the family know, it would be another three months before he would be able to leave the hospital.  Jessica stayed mostly in Norfolk and Jeffrey returned home to go back to work with the National Park Service.
“It was tough to keep Cora in Ocracoke and travel to be with Sam,” said Jessica. Meanwhile, back on the island, the community poured out support as soon as the twins were born.

“You wouldn’t believe it,” said Jessica about the goodwill.  From community fish fries, to household help and loads of food, blankets, clothes and even sunglasses, the list of good deeds done for the family’s sake is endless. “We definitely couldn’t have gotten through that time without community support,” she continued.

Along with the small favors and monetary assistance, the island people wove a fabric of prayer for the babies. Jessica kept everyone informed on the website (and with printouts of the progress posted in the post office), updating with medical explanations for the surgeries and procedures the twins had to undergo. On April 4, Sam “graduated” from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the CHKD.  After a total of 204 days in the hospital, he was able to come home and not only join his sister, parents and canine siblings Bella and Dixie, but to meet the islanders that had been pulling for him so long. Needless to say, he received a very warm welcome.

Nearly one year later, the duo is healthy and happy. Sam still has a feeding tube and it’s undetermined how long he’ll need it. But Jessica said it doesn’t hinder him much.  He does have a little difficulty crawling, but mom said Cora is picking up the slack.  She crawls and pulls up and Jessica said it won’t be long before she’s walking. They both say “Mama,” and “Hi,” which they practice from their front porch along Back Road. Truly little islanders, Jessica said they enjoy the beach, daily strolls and even getting their feet wet in the ocean. They’re quite the socialites, too. Not only do they say “Hi” to countless friends and cousins, they make sure to check out the scene at Ocracoke Coffee Company almost daily.

Sam and Cora’s first birthday party will from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, at “Aunt Leslie” Lanier’s place—Books to be Red along School Road. All are invited to celebrate the twins’ journey as they experience the strength found in islanders and the community.

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