DALLAS — It was the day before Mother's Day, 2002. Lori Aron was just 23 weeks into her pregnancy, in the hospital, and facing an impossible choice.
Which of her twins would live, and which would die.
The last 10 years have been quite a journey.
The odds were stacked against Jake and Josh to a point they can't fully understand yet.
In 2002, they were in the minority of very premature babies who made it. Many more did not.
It is something these parents will never take for granted, along with the heroes who gave their all in the neonatal intensive care unit.
"We had to answer all these questions," Lori Aron recalled. "'If they're not breathing, do you want us to help them breathe?' 'If you had to choose one over the other, which one would you choose?' It was some hard decisions we had to make."
The babies were born four months early at 23 weeks. They were so tiny, they weighed just one pound, two ounces each.
"You asked if they were crying," Jaime said as he remembered being by his wife's side as she gave birth. "They weren't crying. They weren't breathing, either."
At one point, the doctor asked Jamie a dreaded question.
"Came over to me and said, 'Should we keep trying?' What could you say? I said, 'Hell, yes!'"
After 10 minutes, the first baby moved. Two minutes later, so did his twin.
Hospitalized for 199 days, little Jake and Josh would endure surgeries and dark days.
At one point, the Arons feared they had lost Jake.
"We said our goodbyes, and that was the first time we were able to touch him," Lori said.
Then came the turning point: Josh and Jake were not at risk for a fatal brain bleed, which is so often the case.
They were going to survive.
"It was explained to us as a big deal, but it was a bigger deal to the NICU staff," Jamie said. "That was when they sort of started to believe in these kids, and it was like, 'Okay, these guys have a chance.'"
After clearing many hurdles, Jake and Josh went home at Thanksgiving. There was much to be thankful for, but plenty of challenges were to follow.
There was the procedure to repair Josh's throat, likely damaged by a breathing tube.
They needed hundreds of hours of therapy to develop muscles and conquer eating problems.
An infection led to a week-long hospital stay.
And there were plenty of trips to the emergency room.
But as the years passed, there have been fewer visits to the doctor.
The battle wounds are still visible — holes from the feeding tubes and the scar from the surgery that saved Jake's life.
"It's a miracle," Jake said. "It's just a pleasure to be here with most everyone... some good, some bad."
Josh has asthma and a raspy voice.
Jake's two permanent front teeth will never come in, a common dental problem related to premature birth.
But the twins escaped life-long developmental issues.
"Please understand that we're the exception to the rule," said Jaime Aron, their proud father. "I don't want people to have false hope and think, 'If they made it, I'll be fine, too. I'll have the baby at 22 weeks and everything will be fine.' We are so unbelievably fortunate."
So why did both these boys not only survive, but thrive?
"It's certainly faith, but it's beyond that," their dad said. "Medicine. We were at the right place at the right time. We had the right doctors, we had the right nurses, we had the right support system."
Addressing those caregivers, an emotional Lori Aron said: "You saved our boys, and we appreciate it so much!"