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Benefit is Sunday for Marten family

ADRIAN -- A benefit for the Eric and Marissa Marten family will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Adrian Elementary School to help with expenses as one of their newborn twins recovers from his first open heart surgery.

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Marissa and Eric Marten are shown with their twin boys, Thielen and Tucker, in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester prior to Tucker's April 1 open heart surgery. (Special to The Globe)

ADRIAN - A benefit for the Eric and Marissa Marten family will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Adrian Elementary School to help with expenses as one of their newborn twins recovers from his first open heart surgery.

The Martens welcomed twin boys to their family on March 29 - Thielen James and Tucker Kenneth. Tucker was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a defect in which the left side of his heart didn’t form correctly. On April 1, three days after his birth at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester, the first of three anticipated open heart surgeries was performed.

As of Wednesday, Tucker’s chest cavity remained open, as complications arose earlier this week.

“Monday night, he started to have some twitching, which was seizures,” said Eric. “They did a head ultrasound at some point and determined the seizures were because of a stroke.”

“We don’t know exactly when the stroke happened,” added Marissa. “He has two small brain bleeds that are causing seizures. We don’t have any idea what this means long-term. They can’t do an MRI before his chest is closed.”

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Eric said doctors have to determine what’s causing the seizures and stop them, then wean Tucker from some of his medications before they can close the chest cavity.

The Martens have not been allowed to hold Tucker since his open heart surgery - the same day Marissa and baby Thielen were released from the hospital. Though they are able to be in Tucker’s room in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, they can only touch his feet, caress his arms and give him kisses.

“It’s heartbreaking knowing that one of your kids has so many things hooked up that you can’t hold him, that he feels everything is going to be OK, that we’re proud of him,” Eric said. “Not being able to hold him, it’s devastating. It tears at your heart and at your mind.”

“It’s just really hard, especially when you’re sitting in the hospital room, holding his brother and feeding his brother, and all you can do is look from afar,” added Marissa.

The Martens learned of Tucker’s heart defect during an ultrasound performed at Marissa’s 20-week prenatal appointment.

“His heart, as a whole, will never be anatomically normal and it never has been,” Marissa explained. “The surgeries are to get as much blood flow as possible to the lungs and the body.”

Tucker will need to endure a second open heart surgery between the ages of four and eight months, and a third between the ages of 3 and 5.

“It all depends on how he’s growing and maturing, and how his heart is growing,” she added.

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Marissa, a nursing instructor at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, has been in Rochester since March 9. Her sister lives in Rochester, so the family has been able to stay with them.

Eric, meanwhile, worked at AmeriGas in Worthington up until March 26, travelling to Rochester on the weekends. He’s been in Rochester since March 27, along with their two youngest daughters, Ramsey, 3, and Eve, almost 2, and their two dogs. Eric’s daughter, Mersaydes, is staying with her mom so she can continue to attend school at Adrian, though Eric is able to text Mersaydes’ teacher so she can get updates about her baby brother and not worry quite so much.

Initially, doctors told the Martens that Tucker would remain in the hospital for one month, post surgery, but it all depends on what complications arise. Tucker was the smaller of the twins, weighing 5 pounds, 15 ounces at birth, while Thielen was 6 pounds, 8 ounces. While it’s customary for infants to initially lose weight, Tucker is now back up to his birth weight.

“The biggest challenge is Tucker either learning to breastfeed or drink from a bottle,” Eric said. “Up to his first surgery, everything was through IV. They are now giving him breast milk, about 2 milliliters every hour.”

As the Martens wait and pray for little Tucker to improve, they are overwhelmed by the support of family, friends and their community. Both Eric and Marissa grew up in Worthington and their family now resides in Adrian, where Eric serves on the community’s fire department.

“We’ve had a lot of (family) support on the weekends,” Eric said. “They want to hold Thielen and spend time with Tucker and spend time with our girls.”

“The biggest thing is thanking everybody for their love, support and prayers we’ve gotten this far,” Marissa added. “We feel very supported, which is very humbling, but it’s needed.”

“Thank you is one of the smallest things we can say, but it means the most,” Eric said. “Marissa hashtags ‘it takes a village’ during her updates on Facebook. We truly believe that, with the love and support from our family and friends with everything they do for us. If it wasn’t for our village, we would be lost.”

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The Marten family benefit will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Adrian Elementary School, 515 Oklahoma Ave. The Adrian Fire Department will be serving pancakes and sausage for a free-will donation. Raffle tickets will be sold during the event for a chance to win a Green Mountain grill, and there will be a silent auction and bake sale.

Marissa’s brother, Kenny Granstra, is coordinating the benefit and said numerous area businesses and individuals have donated items for the silent auction.

The drawing for the raffle will be at 2 p.m., while the silent auction will close at 1:30 p.m. Bidders are asked to be present at the end of the silent auction to pick up and pay for their items. Among the donations received are tickets to a Minnesota Twins game, and a family of four getaway to Minneapolis.

“We have lots of gift cards from the area, gift baskets for men and women,” Granstra said.

If anyone would like to donate an item or gift basket for the silent auction, they should be brought to Adrian Elementary at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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