Joanne and Lala are supporting families across the United Arab Emirates, please get in touch if you have recently had a premature baby or are expecting an early delivery.
Joanne, her story and Mighty George...
It was Thursday 9th May 2013, my last day in the office before starting my maternity leave. I had decided to have ten weeks off before George's due date and was flying to the UK the following day to spend time with my family before returning to Dubai for the birth in July. My husband was in Dublin on a golfing weekend so my only things to do were finish work and fly home.
At lunchtime, I had a sharp twinge on my right side but nothing untoward and returned back to the office for an afternoon of handing over. Around 3.30pm I had an odd sensation I was sat in a warm bath. I rushed to the bathroom and it was clear I was haemorrhaging. I have never nor ever want to see that amount of blood again. I was petrified. I spoke to a close friend who knew by my face it was serious and took me straight to the hospital. My Obstetrician was in theatre but within minutes had come to see me in between patients. On examination I was told I was having a placental abruption and both the baby and I were compromised. This was about life and death and the only option was an emergency c-section. Only then did I call my husband, who on a golf course, never has his phone turned on. I hadn't wanted to worry him before and by chance, it was on and I was able to tell him what was happening. My friend from work managed to make it into theatre to hold my hand and try to comfort me. George was born and taken straight to NICU whilst I headed to recovery. By the time I came to the room my other two friends were waiting for me and we all just sat there, numb and in shock. Kevan flew overnight to get back to Dubai and we then went to NICU together. It would be ten days before I could first hold George but it didn't matter: he was alive, he was fighting and he was amazing.
George had a severe infection whilst in hospital and a PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosus) in his heart. He needed breathing support as was unable to breathe on his own but after 5 weeks in NICU he came home.
We are so proud of George and what he went through. As a family, we have shared a special time in our lives and I hope in my lifetime I can give back enough to show my heartfelt thanks to everyone who was there for me. I will always hold a special place in my heart for the girls who stayed with me on that first night: I will never forget what they did for me, my husband and our Mighty George.
Lala and her Mighty Twins Arto and Digby
We had only just moved to Dubai from the UK with our 1 year old daughter and 3 year old son and, although we had always wanted 4 children, it was a resounding shock to learn that I was in fact 5 weeks pregnant with identical twins. My biggest fear at the time was the increased risk of miscarriage but my doctor said this wasn’t my biggest worry which I thought was a strange thing to say but he began to tell me about the increased risks associated with monochorionic twins - twins that share the same placenta; Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, Twin Anaemia Polycythemia Syndrome, Severe Intrauterine Growth Restriction and Prematurity to name a few. Perhaps naively, I didn’t worry as I knew friends with identical twins who had all had healthy, near on full term, pregnancies and I felt excited to get to the 12 week ‘safe zone’ where we could shout out our happy news to those who hadn’t guessed by my already burgeoning tummy.
However, a week later the scan showed the boys had stage II Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome - a disproportionate blood flow between the babies and fatal in 60-100% of cases without treatment. I needed to remain in the UK and try and get to 17 weeks when the babies would be viable for laser ablation surgery, surgery that at the time was not available in the UAE. We were given a 30% chance of both babies surviving the surgery, 30% chance of just one baby surviving and 30% chance of neither surviving. We had the surgery at 17 weeks on the day and were incredibly relieved to see both heart beats a few hours after the procedure but we knew we weren’t out of the woods yet and the following were critical. I was closely monitored throughout my pregnancy which was filled with anxiety as the babies continued to have fluid discrepancies and it was thought they may have reverse or repeat TTTS. We moved our care down to The Corniche Women and Children’s Hospital in Abu Dhabi as their Chair of Fetal Medicine, Leanne Bricker, was experienced at treating TTTS. At 31 weeks I had some mild bleeding so was admitted and given steroids to help boost the babies’ lung development but things settled down until 33 weeks when I started leaking amniotic fluid and feeling reduced movement on one side.
Digby and Arto were born on the 14th May 2015 weighing 1.8kg and 2kg putting them larger than many of their NICU contemporaries but they still seemed so tiny and fragile to us. Once the boys were stable, they were transferred up to Mediclinic Welcare where they were reunited, side by side in one room and, apart from when they both had surgery at Mediclinic City Hospital, it’s how they remained for the 23 days we spent in NICU.
During my pregnancy and NICU journey I felt grateful for the outpouring of love and support from friends and family but I only wanted to speak to anyone who had been through what I was going through or something similar. When we were moved to Welcare a fellow twin mother introduced me to Joanne who immediately became someone I could outpour my anxiety to on late night messenger conversations as I sat pumping and who’s support was invaluable to getting me through those weeks of NICU. I knew that as and when I could I wanted to be able to offer support and help to others in the way that Joanne and Small and Mighty Babies did for me so I was honoured when Joanne asked me to work with her to help support our families of multiples based here in the UAE. Never a day goes by when I am not hugely grateful that we defied the odds to have two healthy, happy one year olds at home with us. When they wake me at night I pull them in to bed and hold them close, ever conscious that my sleep is disturbed because I have two babies…not because I don’t. I know what it is like to have a pregnancy riddled with anxiety and to be awaiting NICU but not knowing really what that will mean for you, your babies or your family; to juggle the needs of multiple children while struggling with your own emotions and to gratefully come out the other side. We may not all walk the same path in pregnancy and NICU but we’ve all been in the same woods together at some point.