JESUP – The survival of Iowa’s tiniest twins was nothing short of miraculous. In fact, it earned them a Guinness World Record.

In November, the girls hit another milestone.

Keeley and Kambry Ewoldt, the world’s most premature surviving twins, celebrated their third birthdays with a small gathering at their Jesup home.

It has been no easy journey. The mountain was high. But the girls kept climbing. And climbing. And climbing.

“God had a plan from Day One, and he saw far beyond anything I could see,” said their mother, Jade Ewoldt. “As I look back at their journey, I now can see what God was doing. It’s hard to find words for what I feel.”

Keeley James and Kambry Lee were born 18 weeks early on Nov. 24, 2018, delivered at just 22 weeks and one day gestation. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks.

“They would be clearly among the top four or five earliest babies ever delivered here. We had one at 22 (weeks) and zero (days) and another at 22 and one, but neither were twins,” Dr. Jonathan Klein, a neonatologist and medical director of the NICU at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, said in a previous Courier story.

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At birth, Keeley weighed 1 pound and Kambry weighed 13.4 ounces. Each baby was about the length of a dollar bill. Kambry’s weight briefly dipped to less than a can of soda. The girls’ skin was so fragile it could tear with the slightest touch. Their eyelids weren’t yet formed. Respirators kept them breathing.

Twins at birth

The Ewoldt twins at birth. They were born 18 weeks early in November.

The Ewoldt twins’ extraordinary survival story, first reported by The Courier, made headlines around the world.

“For 22-week babies to survive, it’s incredibly rare,” Klein explained. “Nationally, survival is around 10%.”

Keeley and Kambry spent nearly five months in the neonatal intensive care unit at UIHC Stead Children’s hospital before finally going home. They’ve continued to beat the odds.

Both girls are active — and silly — 3-year-olds, their mom said.

“Kambry is a ham. You cannot really anticipate the next move she’s going to make. She’s so funny. She loves to pretend that she’s Keeley. Last night she took her sister’s glasses and put them on,” Ewoldt said, laughing.

Keeley is a “girly girl” who loves playing with baby dolls and Barbies.

Because of “neuroprotective care strategies” in the NICU, like limiting sound and light to reduce stress, just 10% of preemies born at UIHC have long-term disabilities, Klein said.

Kambry, Keeley Ewoldt

World record setting twins Kambry, left, and Keeley Ewoldt turned 3 years old in November.

Despite compromised immune systems early on, Keeley and Kambry are healthy. They finally were able to come off of supplemental oxygen just before they turned 2. Today, Keeley wears glasses for vision problems, and Kambry was recently diagnosed with autism. Other than that, “they are perfectly normal kids,” Ewoldt said. “The girls have just been exceeding expectations. They’ve come such a long way.”

Ewoldt is grateful for the team at UIHC who saved her babies, and hopes to help other parents going through similar circumstances.


Keeley Ewoldt is shown Jan. 10 in the NICU at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

On Jan. 22, she’s hosting a formal gala at Jesup Golf & Country Club to raise funds for those parents. Parents of babies with lengthy NICU stays miss long periods of work, forgoing paychecks to stay with their children.

“Having a parent bedside as much as possible does improve neurodevelopmental outcomes. Raising money will help them do that so they don’t worry about not being at work. The world still turns wherever you are, even a long stay in the NICU,” she said.

Keeley and Kambry first outfit

Identical twins Keeley and Kambry Ewoldt wear clothes for the first time. “They were so fragile,” said their mom, Jade Ewoldt. “Right after birth smallest thing could have torn their skin. Their skin needed time to mature and maintain a certain body temperature to wear clothes.”

The gala includes dinner, a presentation by Ewoldt, a live auction and a raffle. Live music will be provided by Dalles Jacobus, an Iowa Hawkeyes football player who wrote and performed “The Wave,” a song that pays tribute to the Kinnick Stadium game day wave to kids watching from the top floor of the children’s hospital where the twins were born.

Tickets to the gala are $50 and can be purchased at Tickets will also be available at the door for $60.

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