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Anthony, AJ Harris come home

During a summer of campaigning, all local candidates for office were feeling the pressure. But for incumbent Jamie Harris, his focus was divided, with family challenges taking priority. While Harris was fighting to retain his position on Russellville City Council, his twin newborn sons were fighting for their lives.

AJ and Anthony Harris, two of Russellville’s newest citizens, born July 22, are home now and “doing really well,” according to their father and mother Mindy Harris. But their start in life was far from smooth.

Mindy said she had gone to the doctor with discomfort but no idea that she was pregnant. The news came as a shock – which turned into an even bigger shock upon the revelation that she was having twins – but as “the type who accepts things pretty quickly” Mindy said she and Jamie readily embraced the idea of adding to their family, with two new siblings for 2-year-old son Bryson. The thought was initially a little staggering but “I thought, you know, ‘Do not be anxious.’ In the Bible it says that, do not be anxious. And that was the first thing I thought of,” Mindy said.

Her pregnancy was smooth, except for one hospital admission for dehydration, and Mindy said family and friends were excited and supportive. It wasn’t until 28 weeks that complications first began to crop up.

“I was starting to contract then. They did some things to stop the contractions … I still had a feeling I really needed to take it slow,” she said. But she knew that her babies would come early, and they did: at 30 weeks and two days, by C-section, on July 22, on Jamie’s father’s birthday, and his father’s grandfather’s birthday – “pretty wild,” Mindy said. Her original due date was Sept. 28.

Before the C-section, Mindy said she held to her conviction not to be anxious – a fairly easy task, with all the love and support around her. “Me and Jamie are such a good team and we have such a great marriage,” she said, and with family and friend support, prayers and love, it “really helped me to remain calm … Nobody would really let you (be nervous) with all the love, prayer and encouragement.” Just before the C-section, she asked her surgeon to pray with them. They all held hands, and the surgeon spoke to God. “That calmed me even more,” she said. “That was wonderful.”

What followed was weeks – 60 days for Anthony and 73 for AJ – of struggling to stabilize in the world. Little Anthony couldn’t stay awake or breathe on his own. Little AJ battled intestinal issues that hindered his bowel movements, ultimately leading to a colostomy that caused complications of its own.

“When the doctor went back in to reconnect everything, his body hadn’t healed the way it was supposed to,” Mindy said. More extensive surgery was required. “This is on a little 5-pound preemie. That kind of worried us a little bit. You’re going into the unknown.”

Encouraged by a nurse who said she would let Mindy know “when to worry,” Mindy decided not to waste her time worrying but instead to be thankful and to make every effort to be calm and strong and trust in the Lord.

The day everything took a positive turn will stand out forever in her mind. As Mindy held AJ, she waited to hear the results of an X-ray that would show whether AJ’s intestines were operating healthily. The results were what he family had been waiting to hear: “everything healed correctly, and he was going to be fine.”

But that wasn’t the only piece of good news. At that moment, a discharge nurse checked in to ask, “What do you think about taking Anthony home?”

“Those were the words I was longing to hear,” Mindy said. “I remember looking at her, and I remember the first thing I said to her was, ‘Are you serious?’ That’s the only thing I could think to say.”

Mindy said it’s hard not to think Anthony, who is one minute older, was waiting around for his little brother. “It’s almost like he was waiting on his brother to make sure his brother was OK to go home,” she said. “So I got two things of great news right there.”

So Anthony went home, and 13 days later, AJ followed.

“It’s been a journey for sure,” Mindy said. But now “every day is like Christmas.”

Mindy and Jamie said the support, love, encouragement and prayers of family and friends are what carried them through this challenging time in their life.

“At first you’re scared,” Jamie said. “I know the big thing that got us through this were the local churches. I couldn’t go out anywhere that I didn’t run into people and they would say, ‘Our church is praying for you.’ Everywhere I go, it’s ‘How are the twins?’” It reminded him that his community is like a big family. “We definitely felt that.”

Mindy said they know everything they went through was God’s plan for them.

“We are totally thankful, and we have our arms open wide for this plan,” she said.

And now that the boys are home, they are growing and thriving.

“It’s fun. There’s never a dull a moment,” Jamie said. “I told someone it’s like we have a three-ring circus now, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”