‘Surgery saved my un­born twins in the womb’

Friday - - Front Page -

WhenRachel Jones, 26, fromPortTal­bot, Wales, wastold her un­born twins had a life-threat­en­ing con­di­tion, she agreed to pi­o­neer­ing surgery and hoped they were lit­tle fight­ers...

As the sono­g­ra­pher stared at the mon­i­tor, bit­ing her lip, my heart started to race. I was hav­ing my first scan and waited for her to tell me my baby was OK. It was Mum who punc­tured the si­lence. “Is it twins?” she joked. The lady turned and smiled. “Yes,” she said. “Iden­ti­cal.”

Mum screamed. I couldn’t tell if it was shock or ex­cite­ment at first, but when she pulled me into her arms for a tight hug I knew she was happy.

I, on the other hand, felt like I was go­ing to pass out. Dizzy­ing thoughts were run­ning throughmy mind. How was I go­ing to cope? I al­ready had two young chil­dren, Crys­tal, who was two, and one-year-old son Jay, to look after with my fi­ancé, Stephen El­lis.

It was Fe­bru­ary 2013 and it had been a roller coaster week. I’d been to see my doc­tor after get­ting achey pains in my stom­ach. He said my blood hor­mone lev­els were high and I must be around 14 weeks preg­nant.

“I’m sorry?” I’d spat out, con­fused. I knew I was preg­nant, but the date couldn’t have been right. I was sure I was only seven weeks.

The scan, at Sin­gle­ton Hos­pi­tal in Swansea, Wales, was to check how far along I re­ally was and make sure ev­ery­thing was OK. Now I un­der­stood why my hor­mone lev­els were so high – I was hav­ing twins and I couldn’t have been hap­pier.

Stephen, 29, a fac­tory worker, was as shocked and de­lighted as I was.

A few weeks later, at the 12-week scan, I was amazed at how much the twins had grown. The two tiny shapes now had vis­i­ble arms and legs. And, what’s more, they were girls.

Be­cause the twins were shar­ing a pla­centa, Stephen and I were told it was a high-risk preg­nancy and that I’d need a scan ev­ery two weeks. I wasn’t wor­ried at the time, but six weeks later we found out just how risky it was. We were at a rou­tine scan when, once again, the sono­g­ra­pher was look­ing in­tently at the screen. She called a con­sul­tant in who joined her in study­ing the mon­i­tor. I glanced at Stephen and saw the con­cern etched on his face.

“One of the ba­bies is vac­u­umed in its sac. It can’t move,” the con­sul­tant fi­nally said. “If you’d like to come to my of­fice I’ll ex­plain.”

Grip­ping Stephen’s hand, I fol­lowed the con­sul­tant. He told us the ba­bies had twin-to-twin trans­fu­sion syn­drome, or TTTS.

I lis­tened, try­ing to take it in as he ex­plained TTTS is a life-threat­en­ing con­di­tion found in twins shar­ing the same pla­centa. One twin was re­ceiv­ing all of the blood sup­ply and be­com­ing over­loaded with fluid. As a con­se­quence, she was at risk of a heart at­tack.

The other twin had very lit­tle fluid and so her sac had shrunk and stuck around her. She was also be­ing squashed against the wall of the uterus and re­ceiv­ing very lit­tle blood. It meant she wouldn’t grow as well and might not sur­vive.

I tried to hold back the tears, but one look at Stephen, my part­ner of nearly 10 years, and they came flood­ing out. I was so con­fused and scared. The con­sul­tant could see I was too up­set to take any­thing else in. In­stead, he told us about a spe­cial­ist hos­pi­tal that would be in touch.

We were on the way home when I re­ceived a phone call from Bris­tol’s Fe­tal Medicine Unit and ar­ranged to visit them later in the week. They said to pre­pare my­self for the pos­si­bil­ity of surgery the same day. I was still only 18 weeks preg­nant and ter­ri­fied. Back home in Port Tal­bot, Wales, I tried

For me, ter­mi­na­tion was never an op­tion

The twins ap­peared clearly on my 12-week scan

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