After she welcomed triplets in late January 2015, one Midwest mom felt the happiest she had ever been. She looked forward to introducing the three new additions to her family to their two elder sisters. However, the good times were sadly not to last. Just six days after the delivery, the mom experienced an agonizing stabbing feeling in her chest. And this pain was a portent of doom – four days after that the poor woman was dead.
School secretary Cassia “Casi” Rott and her IT worker husband Joey had spent years building the perfect life with one another near Clay Center in Kansas. Having got married in 2006, the couple purchased an old farmhouse together two years later. Casi and Joey worked hard renovating the building over the next few years to transform it into their dream home. And, in the end, all that was left for them to do was fill it with a family.
Casi and Joey made a start on that next project when they found an occupant for one of the farm’s bedrooms in 2010. This was when Casi gave birth to their first child, Chloe. Four years later, they filled another vacant room with a second baby daughter they named Tenley. Then in 2015, less than two years later, Casi discovered she was pregnant once again.
However, this latest pregnancy was to be much different to Casi’s first two. The next bedroom they filled would need to be a multiple occupancy. That was because Casi and Joey soon discovered that they had naturally conceived triplets. While having three babies on the way was a thrilling prospect, it also meant trepidation. Her doctors classed Casi’s pregnancy as high risk.
Consequently, the medical professionals looked to lessen the risk for the expectant mom. They offered to give Casi a fertility drug in order to induce labor early and reduce the chances of anything going awry. However, Casi was determined to try and carry her triplets for as long as she could. The average gestation for a triple pregnancy is 34 weeks, and this was Casi’s goal so she refused the drug treatment. However, she did feel the need for prudence with her multiple pregnancy.
So for her final trimester, Casi left her family in the remote Clay Center and traveled 117 miles to Wichita to be closer to her medical team. Luckily, Casi had relatives she could stay with in the city but her situation made her sad. She found the almost three-month separation from her young daughters increasingly hard to bear. And she made it clear to anyone who would listen just how much she missed them and her husband.
Jamie Reed, a friend and school colleague of Casi’s, later spoke to local newspaper The Kansas City Star about this time. “She hated being away from them, but she didn’t want anything to go wrong,” she said in March 2016. “[Casi] said this pregnancy was the hardest thing she’d ever done. But that’s all she said. She never complained.”
However, Casi’s fortitude and perseverance was to pay off. On Friday, January 29, 2016, at 34 weeks gone, she gave birth three healthy babies via Cesarean section. Together with Joey she named the two boys and one girl – Asher, Levi and Piper. And the proud mom just could not wait to get the triplets home to meet their siblings back at the farm.
The medical team had something to say about that plan, however. They felt that both Casi and the triplets were in need of some recovery time. The babies went off to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Although mom had done her best, the three of them were still technically six weeks premature. Casi herself was kept in over the weekend for observation, and the contented mom got on with the task of breast-feeding her newborns. She was released from hospital on Tuesday, February 2, and came home to the farmhouse. Casi was only at home for a couple of days before she had to return to hospital. Sadly it wasn’t to visit the triplets – it was much more traumatic than that.
Casi was abruptly woken in the early morning of February 4 by a racing heart and severe chest pains. Joe wasted no time in loading his wife into the family car and driving her straight to hospital. Last time he had been driving to the delivery room, this time his destination was the emergency room. Once there, Casi was given a CT scan which revealed a huge blood clot on her lung. However, doctors were able to reassure the worried couple that, as Joey told The Kansas City Star, “The clot was in the best part of her lungs it could be.”
As far as Joey was concerned Casi was in the best place. And she was going to be able to spend more time with little Asher, Levi and Piper. “We got [the clot] taken care of. Got her on the right medicine,” Joey later explained. “We thought everything was fine.” So fine, in fact, that in a matter of days Casi was on her way back home to see her two older children and make preparations for the triplets arrival at the farm.
The newborns had to stay on at hospital, but Casi was allowed out once more to Clay Center on Monday, February 8. Once back at the farm, Casi swung into full-on mom mode, baking cookies and doing laundry. Meanwhile, Joey went to collect Chloe and Tenley from school in the car. On their way home that afternoon, he told the girls there was a surprise awaiting them once they got back.
The two girls raced through the farmhouse door and were overjoyed to find their mom had returned. And, of course, Casi was also overcome with emotion at the homecoming. “The girls were so excited to see [Casi],” Joey later recalled in an interview with People magazine in March 2016. He added, “Casi was crying too because she was so excited.” However, their excitement and happiness was to be short-lived.
Moments after their sweet reunion, Casi’s chest pains were back with a vengeance. She sat down to gather her strength but the pain persisted. Desperately worried for his wife, Joey called his mom, Barbara – who conveniently lived nearby – over to the farm to watch Chloe and Tenley. Then he rushed Casi back to the hospital where they had left their triplets just hours earlier. Joey knew that the break-neck car journey would be a race against time.
Joey put his pedal to the metal, if Casi was suffering another clot it was vital he got her to hospital as fast as possible. He even called 911 so that the medics would be alerted and would be on standby for their arrival. But then the situation got worse – Casi passed out. Joey frantically tried to revive his wife, with one eye on the road but to no avail. He delivered Casi unconscious to the hospital where the emergency crew took over.
The medics did everything they could for Casi on arrival, they worked on her prone body for more than an hour. Then doctors approached Joey with the devastating news that there was nothing else they could do. The mother-of-five died just 10 days after welcoming her triplets into the world; she was just 36 years old. The loss of the wife and mother was a shattering blow for her young family. But Joey knew he had to pick up the pieces. With three of his babies still in hospital and two more at home, the now sole parent had to stay strong for his children’s sake.
Thankfully, family members, friends and colleagues subsequently rallied around the family. They were keen to let Joey know that although he was now a single dad, he wasn’t alone and they would help in any way they could. A GoFundMe page was established to collect some much-needed cash for the widowed Joey and his kids. Their story touched many hearts in the community and, as a result, the crowd-funding campaign raised an impressive $177,000.
On the money-raising page, a short description of the Rott family’s predicament revealed the probable cause of Casi’s death. “It’s very likely the clot was caused by the pregnancy and C-section,” it said. According to medical experts, the mom had died of a pulmonary embolism. Apparently, Casi was at a higher risk of developing clots since she had two weeks bed rest before the triplet’s birth and had then delivered via Cesarean section.
Almost a month after their birth, and a couple of weeks after their mother’s death, Joey was finally able to bring Asher, Levi, and Piper home from hospital. Returning to the farm with the babies left him with very mixed emotions. It was one of the first big family moments the dad had experienced without Casi by his side. As a result, he told his friends on Facebook that it was “such a bittersweet day.” Joey would have many more to come now he had to fill the roles of both parents for his five children.
“He’s the mom and the dad,” his mother, Barbara, told People magazine. And it is undoubtedly a lot of work – cooking and cleaning, nursing and nurturing, washing clothes and keeping a roof over all their heads. But 35-year-old Joey maintains that his most important task is keeping Casi’s memory alive for her children. He told People, “After Tenley was born, Casi said, ‘If something ever happens to me, just make sure the kids know how much I love them.’ That stuck in my head. That’s the one thing I’m going to make sure I tell them all the time.”