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Tragedy follows birth of New Year's babies in West Fargo

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New Year's Day brings the promise and hope of new beginnings. But for a West Fargo couple, a joyful new beginning as parents was soon met with tragedy.

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One of Jason and Cassie Skalicky's twins - Fargo-Moorhead's first babies of 2010 - has died.

Andrew and Natalie Jo were born about 2 a.m. Friday. Both weighed just over 1 pound because of their early arrival at only 23 weeks.

Natalie Jo died 12 hours later at Fargo MeritCare Hospital's neonatal intensive-care unit. She weighed 1 pound, 3 ounces.

"They're going on faith," Cassie's sister-in-law, Jen Rossow, said Wednesday of the couple. "It's tough."

Family members gathered on Tuesday for Natalie's funeral, calling her birth a blessing that helped doctors care for Andrew. He remains on a ventilator at MeritCare's NICU, where the couple spend all day, each day.

Rossow said Andrew, who weighs 1 pound, 8 ounces, is in "optimistically stable" condition. Today, she added, will be an important indicator of his progress.

"They're seeing promise in his strength," she said.

Throughout the week, the family has received an outpouring of support from the community on Andrew's CaringBridge Web site. A benefit fund is being set up to help the family with medical expenses.

Jason, a Fargo police officer, and Cassie, community impact director at United Way of Cass-Clay in Fargo, also have a 5-year-old daughter. Rossow said faith has helped them through an emotional, bittersweet week.

"Statistically, it's pretty grim," she said. "(But) our family believes in miracles. And that's what our family needs."

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