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"Wee miracle babies" are best Christmas present

7th December 2017 

A SCOTTISH family say they won’t need anything else to make Christmas special this year because they have the best present of all…..their twin boys.

Lynsey Hay and her fiancé Anthony Drake were nervous but delighted when they were told they were expecting identical twins. But the news was tinged with sadness when medical staff explained the twins risked developing TTTS (twin to twin transfusion syndrome).  

Their fears came true when a TTTS diagnosis was made weeks later. But, thanks to lifesaving surgery while they were still in the womb, their little miracle boys are now preparing for their first visit from Santa.

Lynsey and the family, who live in North Lanarkshire, have decided to share their remarkable story as part of TTTS Awareness Day, which is held on 7th December each year. They also want to encourage people to donate to Tamba’s TTTS Registry – a project collecting data on TTTS cases which it’s hoped will improve outcomes for babies in future.  

Lynsey, 27, said: “Throughout the pregnancy our motto was ‘prepare for the worst but hope for the best’. The possibility of losing one or both of them was always hanging over us, but thankfully we’re so lucky to have both boys with us.

“I’ve read so many stories of other families who weren’t as lucky as us – we feel incredibly grateful that they’re healthy and well.”

Lynsey and Anthony, 28, already had a daughter, Amelia, when they decided to try for one more child. But then their scan revealed there were two heartbeats.

“It was a bit overwhelming but we were happy too,” said Lynsey. “But I did think ‘how will we cope with three children?’. We were then told it was a complicated pregnancy and high risk because they shared a placenta – then we almost didn’t want to look forward to anything in case something bad happened. There were so many different emotions.”

TTTS is a condition affecting the flow of blood to the twins. It happens when one twin gets too much blood, while the other gets too little. Because Lynsey’s babies were at risk of developing TTTS, they received fortnightly scans at their local hospital, University Hospital Wishaw.

They received scans at 12 weeks, 14 weeks and 16 weeks and the babies were healthy. The couple dared to hope things would work out for the best. Then at 18 weeks staff at Wishaw noticed a change in the twins’ condition and Lynsey was referred to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

Lynsey said: “Our consultant told us there were different amniotic fluid levels on both babies, but it wasn’t a large enough difference to consider anything further. For a while I was seen 2-3 times a week to keep a really close eye on it – sometimes everything for the twins would be perfectly even, sometimes there would be slight differences.

“Then on one scan the amniotic fluid levels were 14cm on one baby and barely 2cm on the other baby. I was at 25 weeks and our consultant said we’d need laser ablation surgery the next day. The TTTS still wasn’t at the most dangerous stage, but no one wanted to risk waiting any longer.”

Anthony was allowed into the room to comfort Lynsey while the surgery was being performed. A camera and laser were inserted into Lynsey’s womb through her stomach and doctors used the laser to seal off the connecting blood vessels in the placenta. This helps even out the flow of blood between the two babies.

Lynsey said: “Right at the beginning I’d thought ‘what am I going to do with two babies?’ But when you get your head around having two, and then someone says you might not take two babies home, you feel incredibly guilty. Twins wasn’t what I was expecting, but I would have been devastated if I’d lost one or both of them.

“We were both so nervous waiting to hear whether the surgery had been successful. When we had a scan afterwards and there were two heartbeats it was such a great feeling. Every time you go in for a scan you are so anxious and nervous. It really was a whole rollercoaster of emotions.

“We felt so confident in the medical staff at Glasgow, particularly our consultant. She was so caring and considerate.”

Lynsey continued to receive regular scans to check on the babies. Eventually they were reduced from two scans per week to one scan per week. It was then time to start thinking about the twins’ arrival.

Lynsey said: “At 30 weeks I felt much better and much more comfortable – it made me realise how uncomfortable I’d been prior to the surgery. I felt so much lighter and I didn’t need a hot water bottle in the car for my back anymore. It was almost like I wasn’t even pregnant with twins.

“We spoke with our consultant and we were booked in for a c-section for 4th July 2017. But the twins had other ideas and my waters broke on the 1st July.”

The boys – later named Elliot and Oliver – were born via emergency c-section at 34 weeks and 1 day on 1st July at Princess Royal Maternity in Glasgow. They both weighed exactly 4lb 1oz and were healthy baby boys.

Lynsey said: “They stayed in special care in Wishaw for two weeks, but that was really to allow them to grow a bit bigger and just make sure they were feeding okay.

“We felt so incredibly lucky they were healthy and happy – we joined a TTTS group on Facebook and there were so many terrible stories on there of people who’d lost their babies. Every day we know how lucky we are.

“They’re five months now and they’re doing so well. They’re still a bit smaller than singleton babies but they’re definitely growing well and starting to show their personalities. Elliot seems more outgoing and feisty while Oliver is quite laid back and chilled, nothing fazes him. Amelia loves being a big sister, although she doesn’t get what all the fuss is about when people see them and remark on them being identical twins – to her they’re just her brothers.

“When I look at them now, I do still think about the fact they might not have been here.

“We can’t imagine life without them – they’re our wee miracles.”

This Thursday is TTTS Awareness Day and Tamba (Twins and Multiple Births Association) is urging people to support their TTTS Registry.

Tamba’s Scotland coordinator Helen Peck said: “Lynsey and Anthony’s little boys truly are miracles and we’re so happy they’re doing well.

“Sadly there will be other TTTS families who don’t get their lovely happy ending, which is why we want to continue funding the TTTS Registry so more research can be done into this horrible syndrome.

“We want to see more babies surviving TTTS in future which is why this project is so vital.”

Tamba has a special booklet: TTTS, A Guide for Parents, which can be downloaded here.  We also have a booklet detailing parent stories, which can be downloaded here.  

Anyone wishing to donate to the TTTS Registry can visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tttsappeal 

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