Manchester Evening News - - FRONT PAGE - By CHARLOTTE DOB­SON charlotte.dob­[email protected]­i­tymir­ror.com @Dob­sonMEN

‘MIR­A­CLE twins’ born with a rare birth de­fect will be home for Christ­mas af­ter un­der­go­ing life­sav­ing surgery at the Royal Manch­ester Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal.

Tiny twins April and Evie were born al­most four months early in Fe­bru­ary, both with a de­fect that left them un­able to swal­low.

The con­di­tion, known as Oe­sophageal Atre­sia (OA) with TracheoOe­sophageal Fis­tula (TOF), af­fects around 1 in 4,000 new­borns.

Not only is it rare for twins to both be af­fected by this non-ge­netic de­fect, but April and Evie were the most pre­ma­ture ba­bies to have been treated for the con­di­tion at the Royal Manch­ester Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal and St Mary’s Hospi­tal.

De­spite their dif­fi­cult start in life, April and Evie re­cov­ered and will be spend­ing their first Christ­mas at home with their fam­ily.

The girls were born at Burn­ley Gen­eral Hospi­tal af­ter mum Lind­say Rhodes went into labour with­out realising at 26 weeks.

They were trans­ferred to the new­born in­ten­sive care unit (NICU) at St Mary’s to re­ceive spe­cial­ist treat­ment. The de­fect meant the twins wouldn’t be able to swal­low be­cause the oe­soph­a­gus, the tube through which food passes from the mouth to the stom­ach, wasn’t con­nected.

If un­treated, it can cause ba­bies to choke or catch pneumonia.

Within hours of be­ing born, they un­der­went the life-sav­ing emer­gency surgery.

Sur­geons David Wilkin­son and Nick Lans­dale op­er­ated on one tiny baby each, fit­ting gas­tros­tomies so they could be fed via a tube di­rectly into their stom­achs.

April and Evie were given round the clock care on the in­ten­sive care unit be­fore un­der­go­ing more ma­jor cor­rec­tive surgery to en­able them to feed nor­mally.

Mr Lans­dale, con­sul­tant neona­tal sur­geon at RMCH, said: “Oe­sophageal Atre­sia af­fect­ing both twins is ex­tremely rare. April and Evie’s surgery was made chal­leng­ing by their tiny size at birth, with each twin’s oe­soph­a­gus be­ing ap­prox­i­mately the di­am­e­ter of a piece of spaghetti.”

While April re­cov­ered quickly from surgery, Evie’s bat­tle was far from over. Af­ter more than six hours in the­atre, she be­came crit­i­cally ill and al­most died. The frag­ile young­ster spent ten weeks on a ven­ti­la­tor and was re­sus­ci­tated many times by ex­pert staff on NICU.

Thanks to in­ten­sive nurs­ing care, lit­tle Evie pulled through and will spend her first Christ­mas with her twin sis­ter with par­ents Lind­say Rhodes and Stephen Hardiker at home. Lind­say said: “The work that is car­ried out be­tween the teams across both hos­pi­tals in amaz­ing, and the nurses and sur­gi­cal teams are in­cred­i­ble.

“I can­not thank them enough for their on­go­ing care and com­pas­sion through­out one of the most dif­fi­cult times for us.

“They never gave up hope and the girls are now our lit­tle mir­a­cles.

“The whole team on NICU were just amaz­ing and never gave up hope for Evie, which is what we needed.

“We nearly lost her on a few oc­ca­sions and she was re­sus­ci­tated more times than we like to re­mem­ber but she pulled through and we are so proud of them both.”

Lind­say and Stephen, from Burn­ley, lived on the hospi­tal site at Ron­ald McDon­ald House while the twins were cared for at the hospi­tal.

Lind­say added: “To all of the nurses, doc­tors, sur­geons and anaes­thetists that have helped us through this year, I can­not thank you enough for your sup­port.

“April and Evie are do­ing great and we are so pleased to have them both in good health and home for their first Christ­mas af­ter a chal­leng­ing year for us all.”

The happy fam­ily with hospi­tal staff

April and Evie with par­ents Lind­say and Stephen

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