"Fighting for Their Lives"

11/29/2007 at 12:00 PM EST

"Fighting for Their Lives"
Kimberly and Dennis Quaid
Jason Merritt/FilmMagic
"Fighting for Their Lives"| Dennis Quaid Cover, Dennis Quaid

Commonly used in hospitals nationwide, the anticlotting drug Heparin can be fatal to infants who are mistakenly given too much.

Staph infections are also a common ailment among patients. (In 2005 there were 94,000 confirmed life-threatening staph infections.) Buffington says staph was first detected on one of the Quaid twins as a bump near the belly button; the other twin started getting sick soon afterward. "The hospital said, 'This is no big deal, this is a common form of staph and we can knock it out with normal antibiotics,' " says Buffington. Although they are uncertain how the twins contracted the infection in the first place, "most often children acquire staph from their caregivers, from whoever handles them," says Dr. Ziebold. "Staph grows on the skin and often gets transmitted through the hands" through tiny lesions on the infant's skin or through a needle or IV injection site. Or it could have been contracted during birth.

Typically such infections are treated with IV antibiotics for an average of 10 days, depending on whether the staph infection has spread to the infant's bloodstream. (That has yet to be determined for the Quaid twins.) With so much still unknown, the crisis stands in stark contrast to the charmed future the couple had envisioned back in September, when Kimberly had her baby shower in Austin. "They were getting ready for the twins to come," says Woodman. "It was a wonderful time." While the babies' new toys, cribs and blankets go unused in the family's L.A. home, the Quaids are trying to focus on happier times ahead. "We're looking forward to Christmas," says Buffington. "We are going to get an extra big turkey." The twins, he adds, "are strong little fighters. They have beaten the odds to be here, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure they stay here."

• By Michelle Tauber. Alicia Dennis in Austin and Howard Breuer, Champ Clark and Julie Jordan in Los Angeles

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