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Twins lose mother hours after birth

By SHAWNE K. WICKHAM
New Hampshire Sunday News

March 25. 2017 10:53PM
Jamie Snider, 30, left, was battling cancer when she learned she was pregnant with twins. She gave birth to a boy and a girl on March 16 and died the next day in surgery. Her two babies are coming to New Hampshire to live with relatives. (Courtesy)

It seemed the cruelest twist of fate: A California woman who was battling cervical cancer died just one day after delivering twins.

Now her motherless babies are coming to live with relatives in southern New Hampshire.

Jamie Snider's tragic story went viral, her bright smile flashing around the world online and in media reports.

Willow Coigny of Pelham is the sister of Heath Coigny, who is the father of the twins. She flew to California Thursday to be with her family.

Coigny and her husband, Kevin Smith, plan to help her brother raise the babies at their Pelham home alongside their own two sons, Dylan and Henry. "It's family," she said in a phone interview Saturday evening. "He can't do it by himself. There's no way I wouldn't help."

Coigny said Jamie and Heath had dated previously and had been back together for only a short time when doctors informed Jamie, the mother of two girls, during a cancer checkup that she was expecting. Doctors also told her the cancer had returned.

"She totally risked her life to have these babies, and she knew that there were risks," Coigny said. "She never really talked about it though. She was super positive."

Snider continued her cancer treatment during the pregnancy, her doctors closely monitoring her.

The babies were born at 33 weeks by cesarean section on March 16. Doctors also performed a hysterectomy to remove the cancer and Snider seemed to be recovering well.

But the next morning, she started having cardiac problems, according to Christine Oliver of Somerville, Mass., a family friend who has started a gofundme page to raise money for Snider's babies.

"They rushed her into surgery and they lost her on the table," Oliver said. "Her body had just been so compromised by the cancer, by the chemotherapy, by the babies and then having the cesarean and the hysterectomy on top of it, her body just couldn't handle it anymore."

Her 33-year-old brother is overwhelmed at finding himself suddenly a single father of twins, Coigny said. "He is just beside himself with grief," she said. "He's just devastated and he's never really been around babies."

But already, she said, "He's just so in love with them."

Coigny, who is 36, said her brother and his twins will move in with her family as soon as the babies are strong enough to travel across country. Her mother lives in Massachusetts and will help out as well, she said.

Snider's two other daughters will live with their father in California, she said.

Coigny spent all day Friday and Saturday at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto with her brother, mother and the babies. "They're so little," she said. "They're like baby dolls - but they're adorable."

"It's weird because there's so many different emotions going on," she said. "Everybody is just so incredibly devastated, but then there's these two little babies, and it's hard to be sad when you're holding teeny little new kids."

Coigny is staying in California for the weekend so she can attend Jamie's funeral service on Sunday and meet her daughters. "It's going to be really hard," she said. She plans to fly back to New Hampshire on Monday. She and her husband haven't told their boys yet that they'll soon have their two little cousins living with them.

But she said the family will be all right. "It'll be fun with all the kids in the house."

Along with her brother, she'll be the twins' legal guardian, but they'll call her Auntie, Coigny said. "I'm going to raise them as my own children with my own children, but I'm not going to take away from the fact their mommy did what she did for them," she said.

Oliver calls her friend Willow "a rock." She said her goal is to raise enough money to bring the babies home to New Hampshire and cover the medical bills.

By Saturday, the gofundme page had raised more than $48,000 toward the $80,000 goal.

Why does Oliver think Jamie's story has touched so many people? "Because she was just so courageous," she said. "She wasn't scared at all. She was just gung-ho and so strong."

"She just gave herself to the babies."

Oliver said she's glad the little ones will grow up in New Hampshire. "They'll be nature babies," she said.

"Tiny little lumberjacks."

swickham@unionleader.com


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