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KIDS WITH COURAGE: Schmalz twins

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(ROCHESTER, Minn.) -- KTTC is honored to introduce viewers monthly to some of the youngest among us, facing the unthinkable with bravery and optimism. In our fifth "Kids With Courage" segment, Caitlin Alexander introduces us to identical, 1-year-old twin boys, Maverick and Lincoln Schmalz.

Maverick and Lincoln turned one in November

She video-chatted with parents Josh Schmalz and Kelsey Glasser, along with the toddlers from their home in Buffalo Lake, Minnesota.

"They're obsessed with Fortnight," Glasser laughed. "If they see the Xbox controller, they grab it and go, 'pew pew!'"

You could say Maverick and Lincoln are identical in more ways than one.

They've been two peas in a pod since the beginning when they were born prematurely on Nov. 4, 2019. They were 33 weeks. That meant they required time in the NICU to grow.

Glasser and Schmalz had a feeling early on that they would be spending more time in the hospital in the future.

Glasser and Schmalz recognized the metopic suture on Maverick's forehead

"I remembered seeing Maverick for the very first time and seeing the metopic suture on his forehead, and I knew right away, like instantly. We both kind of knew," she said, referring to a sort of pinched, triangle shape.

They'd seen it before when their friend had a baby with craniosynostosis.

"When a child is born, the skull has to be able to come through the birth canal, and then soon after, the brain grows tremendously, and the skull is supposed to grow with that," said Craniofacial surgeon Dr. Robert Tibesar with Children's Minnesota.

He explained that with craniosynostosis, those seams that connect the skull bones fuse too soon and can constrict the brain. Down the line, patients run the risk of cognition and development issues.

It's pretty rare. The CDC reports one in about every 2,500 babies is born with the condition.

So, you can imagine these parents’ surprise when not one, but both of their boys had it and needed surgery.

"It was scary," Schmalz said. "We were very scared."

Doctors caught it first with Maverick. He was about 5 months old when he underwent surgery to give his brain room to grow.

It was May and the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing.

As if that wasn't stressful enough, doctors gave Lincoln a referral shortly thereafter for the same condition and the same surgery a month later.

"We've never seen it before," Dr. Tibesar said.

Identical twins-- both with craniosynostosis.

"It's just scary and I was happy to have them home and have them be regular normal 1-year-olds again," said Glasser.

The boys are transitioning out of their helmets

Both boys came through surgery wonderfully.

They've both had to spend some time in helmets, but they're now transitioning out of them.

Dr. Tibesar and his partner Dr. Kyle Halvorson are happy to report both boys are developing on track with their peers.

"I guess they seem like they wanted to be identical in every way," said Dr. Tibesar with a smile.

For as rare as craniosynostosis is, Dr. Tibesar estimated his team performs about one operation for the condition per week. Children's Minnesota has a Cleft and Craniofacial Program.

Find more "Kids With Courage" stories here.

Caitlin Alexander

Caitlin Alexander

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