The University Record, March 4, 2002

Staff member and special grandmother gets support from UMHS coworkers

By Laurel Thomas Gnagey

Cook holds her grandchildren (left to right) Anna, Zoe, Christopher and Caterina. The babies were born nearly three months early and weighed just over eight pounds collectively. Today, their combined weight is nearly 60 pounds. (Photo courtesy of Laura and Peter Gargiulo)
U-M Nurse practitioner Ann Cook walks into her daughter’s house bearing gifts for the grandchildren. As she hands over the children’s books chosen and autographed by “Grandpa Dan,” she notices a photo sitting on the arm of the chair. “Oh, are those the outfits Lies gave them? I need a copy of that picture.” In the photo are four babies, Anna, Caterina, Christopher and Zoe, all lined up on the couch, dressed in bright spring-like shades of green, blue, pink and yellow.

Cook is the grandmother of the babies born to her daughter and son-in-law, Peter (B.A. Economics, ’91) and Laura (Caldwell) Gargiulo (B.S. Electrical Engineering, ’93). The Lies she refers to is Dr. Elisabeth Quint, a clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology Cook works with at the U-M Health System, and one of many coworkers who has given gifts, loaned cribs and other furniture, donated baby clothes, and otherwise helped the family before and after the birth of five babies June 30. That encouragement was particularly important when one of the quintuplets, Matthew, died four days later.

“They have been incredibly supportive,” says an emotional Cook. “They’re an amazing bunch. This fall, they got together and had a surprise grandma shower for me, and this one didn’t even tell me,” says Cook, pointing to her daughter. She says some of her patients and students also have pitched in to help.

Cook is a women’s health nurse practitioner for the Health System Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which means she sees patients for annual exams and for a number of minor medical problems. She says having the knowledge of what her daughter would go through in a high-risk multiple pregnancy was both a blessing and a curse. She remembers the joy over their good news and the fear of complications like hypertension, gestational diabetes and premature delivery. She recalls the day her daughter and son-in-law came to the clinic to tell her the news.

“I knew there was more than one but they wouldn’t tell me how many on the phone. They kept handing me the ultrasounds. I cried. Laura cried. And Peter kept patting us both on the back and telling us it was going to be all right.” Doctors originally heard six heartbeats but only five babies survived until birth.

Cook talks with patient Naomi Gedion in the Taubman Medical Center. (Photo by Martin C. May)
Ever the organized one, Cook says she began planning immediately. “I went into the ‘we have to be ready for the event’ mode—we have to be very organized.” This not only included helping to gather baby items and turning the Gargiulo home into “Baby Central,” but also meant making certain Laura and Peter were emotionally ready for what was ahead. That preparedness included providing opportunities for the couple to enjoy their last bit of freedom before feedings, diaper changes and baby sleep schedules ruled their lives. “Dan and I decided that they weren’t going to get to do many things after [the babies were born], so we took them out.” A highlight of their special nights was the first annual Glove Party Dance—a formal dinner/dance put on by her department.

Once the babies were born and home from the hospital, Cook helped with the eight feedings and 40 diaper changes per day. On her days off from work, she often took the night shift to allow the sleep-deprived parents a chance to close their eyes for more than two hours at a time. An army of volunteers, most from the Gargiulo’s church, Trinity Evangelical Presbyterian in Plymouth, continues to help take care of babies, wash and fold endless loads of laundry, clean the house, prepare meals and otherwise keep the household moving. “I can’t believe how wonderful people have been,” says Cook as tears begin to form again. A few minutes later she laughs when recalling that someone once suggested she would be quitting work to care for the babies.

“This has been the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she says. Now that the babies are older and sleeping through the night, Cook says the next concern is when all four become mobile. “Watch out!”