by Jersey Children’s Charity Founder and Chairman, Kristin Morris
Our SCBU story began when I was 34 weeks and 5 days pregnant with our identical twin girls, Evelyn and Isabella. The day they were born had been a busy day of trying to get thing organised before they arrived. We were due to have a C-section sometime in the coming two weeks, but had not been given a date. I had been feeling strange and rang maternity who advised me to come in for a check. I walked into the hospital to be checked over and everything was normal. While they were monitoring the girls’ heartbeats, Evelyn (twin 1) had a cardiac episode. While they continued monitoring the twins, Evelyn suddenly started experiencing cardiac distress and they suspected Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome.
We were rushed in for an emergency caesarean under general anaesthesia. Evelyn was born at 9:00pm weighing 2.4kg and Isabella at 9:01pm weighing 2.25kg. They were taken to the SCBU and place in incubators. I awoke in the recovery room about an hour later and was handed two photos of my tiny pink babies. It didn’t feel real except for the strange feeling that something was missing. I was taken up to maternity lying flat on the bed still hooked up to the morphine and briefly wheeled into the SCBU where I was able to look at but not touch the babies. (My arm on their side was connected to the cannula and the tube wouldn’t stretch far enough. I was then put on the ward which, unusually, was completely empty. My husband was sent home and I spent the entire night sitting on the dark ward unable to sleep and staring at the photos of the girls.
When I was able to see them at last, it was the strangest feeling. I just couldn’t believe they were mine. Evelyn was tiny, very pale, and perfect. Isabella was on oxygen, her little face was partially covered and swollen from the mask and her body was red – a symptom of the twin to twin transfusion. I was able to hold Evelyn on the first day, but it was so hard not being able to hold Bella. I will never forget Ann, the Head Nurse on SCBU, opening the front of Bella’s incubator and sliding her out on a little tray so that my husband and I could wrap our arms around her. It was such a simple feature of that particular piece of equipment, but it made such an impact on us. When we were finally able to hold Bella, she looked so happy – a sweet little contented smile on her face.
It was on the second day that the doctors heard the irregularity in Evelyn’s heartbeat. We were told that she needed to be sent downstairs to Clinical Investigations to have an ultrasound on her chest. It took about 30 minutes to change her over to this travel incubator with all its equipment. She looked so tiny. The test confirmed that Evelyn had a murmur caused by duct that had not closed when she was delivered and a narrowing of one of her valves called Pulmonary Stenosis – not uncommon in identical twins. While this was really difficult to digest at first, we were very lucky that Evelyn’s case was minor and she would not require surgery immediately.
In total, we spent 21 days in the Special Care Baby Unit. The girls fed and grew stronger everyday surpassing all expectations set upon them. The staff nurses are amazing. I really cannot say enough about them. Not only are they consummate professionals, but they are caring and compassionate and you can tell that every baby they care for is special to them. We learned how to feed and care for the girls under their watchful eyes while allowing us to make decisions about the girls care.
Evelyn underwent surgery at Southampton General Hospital in September 2013 at two years old to correct the Pulmonary Stenosis. The operation was a success and was minimally invasive so she was back playing with her sister the following day. We were told by the travel office that we were not eligible for any flight or accommodation allowance and we were only given two weeks’ notice prior to the operation so it was quite a costly trip. We went as a family of four and my husband had to sleep at a nearby B&B with Bella. While there I was able to speak to the Channel Islands liaison nurse and explain what our charity does.
Having experienced both the SCBU and travelling to the UK for treatment, I now have a first-hand understanding of what the families we work with are facing. I hope that the Jersey Children’s Charity continues to receive the fantastic outpouring of support from the community so we can continue to our work.