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After struggles, couple to welcome quadruplets into refurbished Watertown home


When volunteers perform renovations at the Boyd Street home of Sgt. Esdras M. Lucero and Jessica P. Neri-Lucero this weekend, they’ll be doing more than aiding a soon-to-be-retired Fort Drum soldier whose house had become unlivable after years of unsuccessful repairs.

They’ll be creating a home for new parents of four who had struggled for years to have children.

“It feels like everything is coming together,” Sgt. Lucero said. “Life doesn’t come together this cleanly almost ever.”

Ms. Neri-Lucero delivered quintuplets at Banner Desert Hospital, Mesa, Ariz., on Dec. 25 and 26. Though the Luceros could have had the babies delivered in Syracuse, they chose the Arizona hospital because of its expertise in delivering multiple babies. Their caution was heightened after they lost a set of twins during birth in April.

Ms. Neri-Lucero and four of the children, who have been taken out of special care in the past few days, are in good health. The first of the five babies, Leila Maxine, died during delivery.

Mr. Lucero said he and his wife wanted their children’s names “rooted in American history.”

The children’s names are Adrian Normandy, after the D-Day landing site; Drew Neil, for astronaut Neil Armstrong; Amada Barbara, after the patron saint of field artillery, St. Barbara, and Pearl Harbor, for the Navy base in Hawaii attacked during World War II.

Leila Maxine’s name was inspired by boxer Muhammad Ali’s daughter.

The Luceros had struggled for about three years to have children, going through multiple fertility treatments.

In addition to having her right ovary destroyed during the removal of a cancerous tumor the size of a football, Ms. Neri-Lucero was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a disorder that creates an imbalance of hormones and makes it harder for a woman to ovulate. The condition is often linked to infertility.

After losing the twins in April, the two had considered giving up on having children and were looking at adoption possibilities.

After learning about the quintuplets in June, the Luceros said several doctors advised them to reduce their pregnancy from five to two babies. The doctors suggested if they did not do so, the odds were higher Ms. Neri-Lucero could die in labor because of her small size at 5-foot-2.

Citing their faith and lack of certainty a reduction would improve the odds of Ms. Neri-Lucero’s survival, the couple proceeded with all five babies.

The babies were delivered when Ms. Neri-Lucero was 29 weeks pregnant, six weeks short of doctors’ goal of 35 weeks.

Ms. Neri-Lucero, still in Arizona, will return to the area with the children in about a week.

The home she will return to is greatly improved from when she left for the hospital in October.

Since buying the home in October 2010, the Luceros have struggled to fix it up, putting in more than $20,000 in savings for repairs. Sgt. Lucero said he did not inspect the home as thoroughly as necessary when they bought it.

Additionally, they believe a contractor they employed, whom they declined to name, hurt the efforts by performing what they called incomplete and unsafe work. For much of that period, Sgt. Lucero was deployed to Afghanistan.

When a Times reporter first visited the home in September, several serious problems were pointed out by Sgt. Steven D. Baugher, a family friend with years of construction experience who had helped the Luceros outline the problems in the home to Sgt. Lucero’s chain of command.

Among the serious issues discovered were an electrical line underneath a bathtub, creating a major risk of electrocution; outdated aluminum wiring and wiring in the kitchen through a surge protector and extension cord. The mortar chimney was falling apart, creating a risk it could fall.

In addition, much of the foundation was uneven and improperly set, gas and water were being run through incorrect piping and many of the windows were not properly set, creating severe heat loss. A red “The Price is Right” shirt covered a hole in the wall where a window was not properly installed in the home’s upstairs bathroom.

The lack of insulation forced the Luceros to live in the sitting room, smaller than an average college dorm room. With only one functioning outlet, they would decide whether to run a small space heater, watch television or charge a computer. They eventually moved to a hotel with their three dogs when the weather made it too cold to stay.

The home repairs were made possible by Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides support for military families in financial crises and coordinated the contracting work, along with Home Depot, which gave much of the funding.

“It’s been a long road,” said Tracy L. Handschuh, programs manager for Operation Homefront in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area, who first spoke with the family in August. “I’m glad I’ve been able to share their journey.”

She said contractors had “worked their tails off” putting in new insulation, fixing the plumbing and electrical outlets and remodeling the home.

“From Sheetrock to flooring to pulling up nails, it’s been a lot,” Mrs. Handschuh said.

The two main contractors involved in the project were Cowles & Company and Dan’s Remodeling Co., both of Watertown.

Crews today and Sunday will be at the home doing mostly aesthetic work such as painting, hanging blinds and installing closet materials.

For the Lucero family, the new house comes as Sgt. Lucero prepares to end his seven-year Army career, with his final day coming Thursday.

Sgt. Lucero will receive a monthly stipend through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder related to injuries he sustained in 2009 in Iraq when he was hit in the back of the head by a 30-pound ammunition can, fracturing two disks at the top of his neck.

He said he and his wife planned to live in the area and attend courses at Jefferson Community College paid for through the military’s GI Bill benefits. Sgt. Lucero said at some point he’d like to pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering.

Sgt. Lucero said he would also use his time to continue to serve as president of Walkways for Warriors, a local group he founded that helps wounded soldiers and Gold Star families with basic household chores such as grass mowing and snow shoveling.

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