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Story of ‘tornado twins’ a hit with national audience

Chris Casey
Greeley, Colo.
Mandy MercerJack Chesnutt, a regional producer for NBC News, shoots video of the colts Thursday (left) and Windsor earlier this month at the Mears ranch in Gill, Colo. The colts are the offspring of Jennifer Mears' beloved show horse Tuesday, who was critically injured in the tornado that ripped through northern Colorado in May 2008.

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Every day they watch the colts kick over their food pan, or frolic with the Corgi puppies, Bill and Ted, it’s a reminder that this year has been an excellent – and constantly surprising – adventure.

Smiles come easy to sisters Jennifer Mears and Mandy Mercer whenever the subject turns to horses, especially the colts named Thursday and Windsor. They are the miraculous offspring of Tuesday, Jennifer’s beloved and accomplished show horse that was critically injured in the Windsor tornado of May 2008.

The colts, known as “the tornado twins,” were born four days apart in late April at the Equine Reproduction Laboratory at Colorado State University. The dramatic story that led to the dual conceptions – Tuesday’s leg injury was so serious that she needed to be put down, but not before 20 of her eggs were collected and then fertilized at the Equine Reproduction Laboratory – got statewide media coverage.

Then, as compelling animal stories are wont to do, the tale of the tornado twins got picked up by NBC Nightly News, which aired the report in May as part of its “Making a Difference/Hometown Heroes” series.

That story received so many hits on the NBC News Web site that it now ranks among the top viewer-choice stories of the year. The network will give a $10,000 donation to the featured subject in the “Hometown Hero” story that gets the most votes on its site.

“The response to (the story) nationwide has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Dr. Pat McCue, director of CSU’s Equine Reproduction Laboratory. “I think everyone can relate to it to one degree or another. The immediate loss of an animal, the human-animal bond of that, just tugs at you … Thankfully, we had the technology to be able to step in.”

If the tornado twins story wins the online poll, McCue said the money will go to a CSU foundation that helps the veterinary school and its students.

From the beginning, when he heard that Tuesday was severely injured after the edge of the tornado gusted through Gill, Colo., where the Mears family lives, rolling a shed onto Tuesday’s leg, McCue wanted to help keep alive the bloodline of the 12-year-old mare with the buckskin coat.

He immediately called the Mears family and offered to perform the in vitro fertilization process free of charge. From there, his staff, students at the laboratory and neighbors of the Mears and Mercers (Mandy lives a mile from her mother and sister) pitched in to help keep a part of Tuesday alive. The neighbors brought mares to be potential surrogate mothers of the embryos, which were only a millimeter in size at the time of transfer from glass dish to horse.

“We have to find a recipient mare whose (reproductive) cycle lines up with that embryo,” McCue said. “It was actually quite touching when these other horse owners – neighbors and friends – brought mares over just to see if any of them qualified as recipients. It has to be quite precise.”

The eggs had been fertilized using advanced sperm injection, and eight developed into embryos. The best four were implanted in four mares, and two of the embryos developed and went full term. Mercer’s mare, Katie, was surrogate for the buckskin-colored colt Tuesday, while a mare owned by CSU’s Equine Reproduction Laboratory (renamed Friday as a tribute to the biological mother) was the other surrogate.

In the nine years CSU has performed the technique on harvested eggs, only once before were two foals born from the same biological mare. Under normal circumstances, a foal is born in 20 to 25 percent of the sperm injection procedures.

The sisters from Gill, Colo., keep McCue updated on the colts’ progress with regular photos. A recent photo taken by Mercer shows an NBC reporter filming the colts for a follow-up story.

“As tragic as the initial event was for the family, the fact we were able to do this (procedure) successfully … it couldn’t have happened to a nicer family,” McCue said.

The love Mears and Mercer have for the fast-growing arrivals is amplified by the shadings of Tuesday they see in the colts. Both are destined to be show horses like their prize-winning mother, the sisters say.

“Both Windsor and Thursday, when they eat their grain, they paw the ground and knock their grain pan all over,” Mercer said. “They eat their grain off the ground, and that’s what their mother used to do. It’s one of those interesting things that is hereditary that they got from their biological mother.”

What Mears got from Tuesday was just about everything. The two were inseparable for a decade. Mears called Tuesday her best friend.

Now she’s forming a similar attachment to Thursday, who has the buckskin coat of his mother.

“He’s very sweet and very affectionate and he loves to give me kisses,” Mears said. “I love it when he gives me kisses.”

Mears said that “never in a million years” did she expect the story of Tuesday’s legacy to become a major national news story.

“It’s really cool to know how many people had their hand in it to make it happen, and how many students learned (from it),” she said. “It’s just amazing.”

To choose the story of Dr. Pat McCue and the “tornado twins” as the story of the year in NBC Nightly News’ “Making a Difference/Hometown Heroes” series, go to http://msnawards.onlinepromo.com/ and click the box featuring McCue in the lower right of the page.

Every day they watch the colts kick over their food pan, or frolic with the Corgi puppies, Bill and Ted, it’s a reminder that this year has been an excellent – and constantly surprising – adventure.

Smiles come easy to sisters Jennifer Mears and Mandy Mercer whenever the subject turns to horses, especially the colts named Thursday and Windsor. They are the miraculous offspring of Tuesday, Jennifer’s beloved and accomplished show horse that was critically injured in the Windsor tornado of May 2008.

The colts, known as “the tornado twins,” were born four days apart in late April at the Equine Reproduction Laboratory at Colorado State University. The dramatic story that led to the dual conceptions – Tuesday’s leg injury was so serious that she needed to be put down, but not before 20 of her eggs were collected and then fertilized at the Equine Reproduction Laboratory – got statewide media coverage.

Then, as compelling animal stories are wont to do, the tale of the tornado twins got picked up by NBC Nightly News, which aired the report in May as part of its “Making a Difference/Hometown Heroes” series.

That story received so many hits on the NBC News Web site that it now ranks among the top viewer-choice stories of the year. The network will give a $10,000 donation to the featured subject in the “Hometown Hero” story that gets the most votes on its site.

“The response to (the story) nationwide has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Dr. Pat McCue, director of CSU’s Equine Reproduction Laboratory. “I think everyone can relate to it to one degree or another. The immediate loss of an animal, the human-animal bond of that, just tugs at you … Thankfully, we had the technology to be able to step in.”

If the tornado twins story wins the online poll, McCue said the money will go to a CSU foundation that helps the veterinary school and its students.

From the beginning, when he heard that Tuesday was severely injured after the edge of the tornado gusted through Gill, Colo., where the Mears family lives, rolling a shed onto Tuesday’s leg, McCue wanted to help keep alive the bloodline of the 12-year-old mare with the buckskin coat.

He immediately called the Mears family and offered to perform the in vitro fertilization process free of charge. From there, his staff, students at the laboratory and neighbors of the Mears and Mercers (Mandy lives a mile from her mother and sister) pitched in to help keep a part of Tuesday alive. The neighbors brought mares to be potential surrogate mothers of the embryos, which were only a millimeter in size at the time of transfer from glass dish to horse.

“We have to find a recipient mare whose (reproductive) cycle lines up with that embryo,” McCue said. “It was actually quite touching when these other horse owners – neighbors and friends – brought mares over just to see if any of them qualified as recipients. It has to be quite precise.”

The eggs had been fertilized using advanced sperm injection, and eight developed into embryos. The best four were implanted in four mares, and two of the embryos developed and went full term. Mercer’s mare, Katie, was surrogate for the buckskin-colored colt Tuesday, while a mare owned by CSU’s Equine Reproduction Laboratory (renamed Friday as a tribute to the biological mother) was the other surrogate.

In the nine years CSU has performed the technique on harvested eggs, only once before were two foals born from the same biological mare. Under normal circumstances, a foal is born in 20 to 25 percent of the sperm injection procedures.

The sisters from Gill, Colo., keep McCue updated on the colts’ progress with regular photos. A recent photo taken by Mercer shows an NBC reporter filming the colts for a follow-up story.

“As tragic as the initial event was for the family, the fact we were able to do this (procedure) successfully … it couldn’t have happened to a nicer family,” McCue said.

The love Mears and Mercer have for the fast-growing arrivals is amplified by the shadings of Tuesday they see in the colts. Both are destined to be show horses like their prize-winning mother, the sisters say.

“Both Windsor and Thursday, when they eat their grain, they paw the ground and knock their grain pan all over,” Mercer said. “They eat their grain off the ground, and that’s what their mother used to do. It’s one of those interesting things that is hereditary that they got from their biological mother.”

What Mears got from Tuesday was just about everything. The two were inseparable for a decade. Mears called Tuesday her best friend.

Now she’s forming a similar attachment to Thursday, who has the buckskin coat of his mother.

“He’s very sweet and very affectionate and he loves to give me kisses,” Mears said. “I love it when he gives me kisses.”

Mears said that “never in a million years” did she expect the story of Tuesday’s legacy to become a major national news story.

“It’s really cool to know how many people had their hand in it to make it happen, and how many students learned (from it),” she said. “It’s just amazing.”

To choose the story of Dr. Pat McCue and the “tornado twins” as the story of the year in NBC Nightly News’ “Making a Difference/Hometown Heroes” series, go to http://msnawards.onlinepromo.com/ and click the box featuring McCue in the lower right of the page.

Every day they watch the colts kick over their food pan, or frolic with the Corgi puppies, Bill and Ted, it’s a reminder that this year has been an excellent – and constantly surprising – adventure.

Smiles come easy to sisters Jennifer Mears and Mandy Mercer whenever the subject turns to horses, especially the colts named Thursday and Windsor. They are the miraculous offspring of Tuesday, Jennifer’s beloved and accomplished show horse that was critically injured in the Windsor tornado of May 2008.

The colts, known as “the tornado twins,” were born four days apart in late April at the Equine Reproduction Laboratory at Colorado State University. The dramatic story that led to the dual conceptions – Tuesday’s leg injury was so serious that she needed to be put down, but not before 20 of her eggs were collected and then fertilized at the Equine Reproduction Laboratory – got statewide media coverage.

Then, as compelling animal stories are wont to do, the tale of the tornado twins got picked up by NBC Nightly News, which aired the report in May as part of its “Making a Difference/Hometown Heroes” series.

That story received so many hits on the NBC News Web site that it now ranks among the top viewer-choice stories of the year. The network will give a $10,000 donation to the featured subject in the “Hometown Hero” story that gets the most votes on its site.

“The response to (the story) nationwide has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Dr. Pat McCue, director of CSU’s Equine Reproduction Laboratory. “I think everyone can relate to it to one degree or another. The immediate loss of an animal, the human-animal bond of that, just tugs at you … Thankfully, we had the technology to be able to step in.”

If the tornado twins story wins the online poll, McCue said the money will go to a CSU foundation that helps the veterinary school and its students.

From the beginning, when he heard that Tuesday was severely injured after the edge of the tornado gusted through Gill, Colo., where the Mears family lives, rolling a shed onto Tuesday’s leg, McCue wanted to help keep alive the bloodline of the 12-year-old mare with the buckskin coat.

He immediately called the Mears family and offered to perform the in vitro fertilization process free of charge. From there, his staff, students at the laboratory and neighbors of the Mears and Mercers (Mandy lives a mile from her mother and sister) pitched in to help keep a part of Tuesday alive. The neighbors brought mares to be potential surrogate mothers of the embryos, which were only a millimeter in size at the time of transfer from glass dish to horse.

“We have to find a recipient mare whose (reproductive) cycle lines up with that embryo,” McCue said. “It was actually quite touching when these other horse owners – neighbors and friends – brought mares over just to see if any of them qualified as recipients. It has to be quite precise.”

The eggs had been fertilized using advanced sperm injection, and eight developed into embryos. The best four were implanted in four mares, and two of the embryos developed and went full term. Mercer’s mare, Katie, was surrogate for the buckskin-colored colt Tuesday, while a mare owned by CSU’s Equine Reproduction Laboratory (renamed Friday as a tribute to the biological mother) was the other surrogate.

In the nine years CSU has performed the technique on harvested eggs, only once before were two foals born from the same biological mare. Under normal circumstances, a foal is born in 20 to 25 percent of the sperm injection procedures.

The sisters from Gill, Colo., keep McCue updated on the colts’ progress with regular photos. A recent photo taken by Mercer shows an NBC reporter filming the colts for a follow-up story.

“As tragic as the initial event was for the family, the fact we were able to do this (procedure) successfully … it couldn’t have happened to a nicer family,” McCue said.

The love Mears and Mercer have for the fast-growing arrivals is amplified by the shadings of Tuesday they see in the colts. Both are destined to be show horses like their prize-winning mother, the sisters say.

“Both Windsor and Thursday, when they eat their grain, they paw the ground and knock their grain pan all over,” Mercer said. “They eat their grain off the ground, and that’s what their mother used to do. It’s one of those interesting things that is hereditary that they got from their biological mother.”

What Mears got from Tuesday was just about everything. The two were inseparable for a decade. Mears called Tuesday her best friend.

Now she’s forming a similar attachment to Thursday, who has the buckskin coat of his mother.

“He’s very sweet and very affectionate and he loves to give me kisses,” Mears said. “I love it when he gives me kisses.”

Mears said that “never in a million years” did she expect the story of Tuesday’s legacy to become a major national news story.

“It’s really cool to know how many people had their hand in it to make it happen, and how many students learned (from it),” she said. “It’s just amazing.”

To choose the story of Dr. Pat McCue and the “tornado twins” as the story of the year in NBC Nightly News’ “Making a Difference/Hometown Heroes” series, go to http://msnawards.onlinepromo.com/ and click the box featuring McCue in the lower right of the page.


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