Twin Savannah physicians pull double duty to deliver ‘hurricane babies’

Just like several patients, one sister got pregnant during Hurricane Matthew

If you’re into figuring out the odds, this story should be a brain twister for you.

 

What are the chances that twin sisters from Tennessee would end up graduating from medical school from the same college and then go on to practice in obstetrics and gynecology in the same clinic in Savannah?

And, not only do they practice together, but they’ve also delivered each other’s babies.

So, maybe a million in one odds?

And, they are about to get another shot at strengthening that doctor/patient relationship as sisters as Anna Barrett prepares to give birth to what she calls her “hurricane baby.”

And if you ask her to guess the odds of getting pregnant when Hurricane Matthew made its way through Savannah last October, she would tell you the chances were slim to none.

“It’s definitely a hurricane baby,” Barrett says. “Even though I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant at that time.

“It happened right after the storm passed, when all the electricity was still out. No cable or Wi-Fi. Nothing else to do,” she adds and laughs. “Maybe you don’t want these details.”

Barrett and her twin sister Maria Paasch are OB-GYNS at the Thrive Obstetrics and Gynecology at Candler Hospital. Their motto is “a sisterhood of caring.” And when they aren’t busy practicing medicine, being wives and raising their children, they’re probably together somewhere, having a conversation where they continually finish each other’s sentences.

Barrett continues the hurricane baby story, “But, I honestly really believe the hurricane threw me off; threw me off by just a couple of days.”

She says the stress of evacuating for the storm may have thrown off her ovulation.

Paasch laughs, “That could just happen anyway.”

“Yeah, that’s true, but I still think that,” Barrett says.

Her sister gives her the side-eye and says she thinks the cause of pregnancy has more to do with the cable being out, and they laugh.

Barrett says her due date is early July, but this will be her first “Telfair baby.” This is her second pregnancy. Her son was born in Hawaii almost five weeks apart from Paasch’s son. They refer to the cousins as “the boys,” as if they are a complete set that collectively belongs to both of them, which probably isn’t too far from the truth.

They seem to share almost everything — sense of humor, passion for practicing medicine, patients, mannerisms, physique. They say they even shared a car in high school and have only lived apart from each other a few times in their lives.

But in some ways, they are different. Paasch seems to be the more talkative one and Barrett admits she’s the bossy one. And it’s that bossy nature that supposedly brought them to Savannah in 2012, a fact they repeat in unison.

“It was really random how we ended up in Savannah,” Paasch says. “My husband will tell you two different versions. One is that we threw a dart at the globe. Two, he’ll say that she made us come here.”

She points to her sister with an accusatory stare and says Barrett is the bossy one.

Barrett happily accepts the accusation.

But, even though Barrett was the first sister drawn to obstetrics, she didn’t need to be bossy to persuade her sister to follow her down that path.

“I tried to pick a different specialty,” Paasch says. “Anna had already picked OB-GYN. I was a year behind her in medical school, and when she said she was going to do OB, I said, eeeww, why do you want to do that?

“But when I got to that part of my student rotation, I thought, oh man, I like the same thing. I thought it would be cool if we did different things; be a little more comprehensive, but it really kind of makes sense for us to do the same thing.”

And both sisters say they love what they do.

“I don’t know if it was because OB is mostly women and we are a women-centered family, but following this path just felt comfortable,” Barrett says.

They say they have two other sisters, so they come from a family of four girls and they just feel like they are always in a large group of women.

“Estrogenfest is what we call it,” Paasch says.

Coming up with fun names for things seems to be a running theme with the sisters. When they start talking about how cool it would be if the new babies in the family look alike, Paasch exclaims, “It would be like another set of us. It would be another AnnaMaria!”

So, who is AnnaMaria?

Paasch tells the story of how when they were growing up, Barrett’s now-husband went to elementary school with the ladies.

“His mom, in high school, thought we were one person because he would say, I’m going to Anna and Maria’s house. She thought we were one girl named AnnaMaria.”

I ask if they like working together in the same practice.

Both shake their heads and say “yes” at the same time.

Paasch says, “It’s kind of like growing up together.”

“Except we don’t fight as much as we did,” her sister quickly adds.

I ask if they know of any other twin OB-GYNS.

“Yeah, there are two male OB-GYNS that were on a reality show,” Barrett says. “They are the only ones I can think of.”

Paasch laughs and says they’ve been approached to do a reality show, too. She says they declined. “We thought that would be awkward with HIPPA laws.”

One thing they don’t find awkward is the fact that they deliver each other’s babies.

“I probably get asked that question at least three or four times a day,” Barrett says. “People ask, are you seriously going to let your sister deliver your baby?”

They both admit that they’ve felt it would be weird to see another doctor.

“She practices medicine the way I would practice medicine, and you usually practice medicine the way you would want to take care of yourself,” Paasch explains.

“It just always seemed to make sense to me,” Barrett says.

Her sister adds, “And once you have one kid, you’re not so modest any more. When the first one was born, we weren’t sure what to expect. But now it just seems natural.”

And when they aren’t busy with each other, it seems the doctors have their hands full with a growing roster of patients.

When asked if they think any of their patients are having hurricane babies, they both say in unison, “Our patient roster exploded for July and August. Completely.”

Paasch explains that in spring, they had almost no positive tests, but then for July, the due dates doubled.

Her sister agrees that the roster definitely doubled; no exaggeration.

“It was almost like nature was worried about how low our census was getting, so Hurricane Matthew came along to fix that,” Paasch says.

They explain that during an emergency like Hurricane Matthew, they decided the best plan of action was to hand out charts to expectant mothers in case they needed to deliver their babies outside of Savannah during the storm, something that happened to two of their patients.

But the sisters admit they both evacuated during the storm, except they didn’t leave together.

“But we ended up at the same place. We crashed our sister’s place in North Carolina,” Barrett says. “It was actually very relaxing.”

And, of course, they came up with a clever name to call their impromptu family vacation: a “hurri-cation.”

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