A Belfast mother has revealed the “terrifying” ordeal she experienced of having to fly to London for emergency surgery, just days after finding out she was having twins.
Sarah Campbell’s twin boys, Harry and Benjamin, were diagnosed with a condition known as twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) which put their lives at risk during her pregnancy.
Sarah and her husband Sam were told by doctors before going into surgery that the babies had no more than a 30 per cent chance of survival.
Thankfully, the two baby boys survived and, despite having been born at just 30 weeks in an emergency C-section following the operation, they are now back home and thriving.
Harry and Benjamin are now aged 20 months and mum Sarah describes them as her “miracle babies”.
She was speaking this week in support of a new life-saving initiative by the twins and multiple births association (TAMBA) for a registry about the twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome her little boys were diagnosed with.
“At the 21-week scan the sonographer realised we were having twins,” she said.
“We didn’t know. She said something like ‘there’s the other pair of legs’. I nearly jumped off the table.
“It just so happened that there was some sort of a twin clinic that day and there was a specialist twin obstetrician there and because it was a late diagnosis he wanted to see us right away. When he came in he realised straight away that there was something wrong.
“Twin to twin transfusion syndrome, in the simplest terms that we were told, means that with identical twin pregnacnies when both of their chords are attached to one placenta, the blood vessels grow irregularly so that the blood supply between the twins is shared and you have a donor twin and a recipient twin. The recipient twin gets too much blood supply and the donor twin doesn’t get enough.
“We were absolutely in total shock – first of all we just found out we had twins. In between seeing that obstetrician we were ringing round everyone to tell them we were having twins and the next thing everything was very grave.
“Within three days’ time we were on a flight to London to see Professor Basky Thilaganathan at St George’s Hospital for laser surgery. On the morning of the surgery they said it was stage 4, the worst stage, and that they had a 30 per cent chance of survival. Even if they did survive, there was a risk of severe disabilities.
“It was absolutely terrifying. The surgery itself is so cutting edge. If it was even 10 years ago my two boys probably wouldn’t be here today. They are two wee miracles, they really are. It was all so terrifying. When we got back we had scans every 10 days and at 28 weeks they were very concerned about their growth. I had an emergency C-section at 30 weeks.
“Before we went in the neonatal consultants were telling us, basically, that we have two very sick babies, that they didn’t know what was going to happen and that we needed to prepare ourselves.”
The birth went well and despite serious health concerns for the smaller of the twins – including open heart surgery – both baby boys are thriving.
Sarah added: “Benjamin was born first – they thought he was the tiny one. He was 3lb5oz. He came out screaming and has done fabulously ever since. Harry was born second and he was 1lb11oz – teeny, teeny, teeny – but he didn’t need to be put on the ventilator. He was breathing normally. He has had a lot of health issues but he is doing well now.
“Part of the campaign that TAMBA are doing is about raising awareness because even a lot of doctors don’t know everything about it – we were very lucky we saw the specialist when we did.”
For more information, visit TAMBA’s website www.tamba.org.uk/TTTS.