‘Surgery saved my unborn twins in the womb’
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