The China doll twins: Parents cherish fragile girls who suffered 12 broken bones between them in their first week of lifeAmy and Ava are so fragile that even cradling them could break their ribs
Mother Charmaine was 23 weeks pregnant when she was told her girls could have a severe bone deformity but didn't want to terminate themBabies appeared healthy after birth but a scan 11 days later revealed how delicate they wereAva broke her arm while being bathed while Amy broke her ribs wriggling in her cot
19:35 GMT, 12 December 2012
The parents of twin girls have revealed they can't even cradle them, because they suffer from a rare condition which means they are as fragile as china dolls.
Five-month-old twins Amy and Ava Cowan, from Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, were born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta – otherwise known as brittle bones.
OI sufferers can repeatedly break their bones, and may experience several hundred fractures throughout their lifetime. The condition affects just 1 in 15,000 people in the UK.
Our precious baby girls: Charmaine and John with twins Ava and Amy who suffer from brittle bones
Baby Amy (left) and Ava. Their parents realised there was something wrong after they let out high-pitched cries after they were taken home
The twins' mother, Charmaine, said: 'The girls are so delicate that however gentle we are with them they're bound to break something.
'In one of the first x-rays we had after they were born the results showed they had twelve broken bones between them. I just couldn't believe it – they'd barely moved!
'It's heartbreaking because I hate to see my girls in pain, but the slightest knock can mean a break.'
Charmaine, 29, and husband John, 30, have to be extra careful with their tiny daughters, because even rocking them in their arms could break their ribs.
Mrs Cowan said at first the condition left her paranoid about hurting them, and with good reason.
'When they were first born, whenever
I'd hold the girls I'd place them on support cushions, and to feed them
I'd rest them on pillows.
'I would only dress them in romper
suits with velcro fastenings so I could slip their clothes on and off
quickly. I was so scared that I'd hurt them, everything was a struggle.
'One day I was bathing Ava gently under her arm when I felt it go limp. I froze and shouted out to my husband – I'd just broken her arm.
'We rushed to Ava to hospital, but we were only back from the hospital for five minutes when Amy had broken her leg by wriggling in her cot.
'It was only a couple of days later when Ava broke her ribs by fighting against her blankets in her cot.
It was my first experience of the girls breaking their bones at home, and I just had no idea how I was going to be able to handle it.'
Charmaine said she slowly gained confidence in handling her daughters (Ava left in left picture). Amy is pictured wearing supportive bands (right)
Mr and Mrs Cowan are teaching their other children (l-r) Sophia, 4, Airan, 4, and Kaelan, 2, to be very gentle with Ava (l) and Amy
Charmaine was just 23 weeks pregnant when she was told her children would be born with health problems.
'We were told that the girls could be born with skeletal dysplasia, and it was very likely that they could be deformed.
'There are 500 types of skeletal dysplasia, so we couldn't be 100 per cent sure what they would look like, or what would be wrong with them, but we were advised to terminate the pregnancy.
'It was absolutely devastating. It was explained that the girls would be injected in the heart to terminate the pregnancy, and then I would have to deliver them.
'The thought of having to plan a funeral for them was horrendous. We were in two minds about what to do until I had a 4D scan.
'As soon as I saw their perfect little faces I knew there was no way I could have an abortion. They were my little girls, and I'd love them no matter what.'
At 35 weeks' pregnant Charmaine was taken to the hospital when the levels of fluid around Amy was too low. Charmaine was given an emergency caesarean section and delivered Amy and Ava on the 25th of June 2012.
Older twin Amy spent a short time in special care, but it wasn't long before Charmaine and John were able to take their two seemingly healthy baby girls home.
Ava (left) and Amy shortly after birth: A scan taken when they were 11 days old revealed they both had multiple breaks
'As soon as we got them home we knew something wasn't right. They constantly let out a high pitched scream and whatever we did we just couldn't stop them from crying.
'At 11 days old, the girls were referred to Yorkhill Children's Hospital in Glasgow for further tests to try and get to the root of the problem.
'At Yorkhill the girls were given a full body scan, and it was then the doctors noticed how many breaks they had.
'The consultant took us into a room and told us straight away that from the results of the x-ray it looked like the girls had OI. I was terrified. I had no idea what that meant, or how it would affect them. I just didn't understand.'
Charmaine, and husband John then met with an occupational therapist who explained how they should look after Amy and Ava.
taught us how to hold the girls without hurting them. You have to hold
them with your hands spread out around their back, because cradling them
in your arms could break their ribs.
'At home we had to make sure they had really soft beds.
'It was really daunting at first – I was terrified when we finally took the girls home three days later.'
The twin girls suffer from a condition that affects just one in 15,000 people in the UK
Amy and Ava were put on bone strengthening drug pamidronate and were discharged from hospital.
It's been a steep learning curve for the family, but since the twins' diagnosis, Charmaine, John, and there three older children have been learning to deal with the condition.
'My other children, Sophia 4, Kaelan 2, and Airan 1, don't really understand why they have to be so careful with their younger sisters, but they're learning to be very, very gentle.
'We have to make sure they all play quietly together, because if Amy and Ava get startled, and wake up with a fright, even that could break their bones.
'As they've got older I'm much more confident with them. You just have to be so careful.
'I do worry about what the future holds but I will never regret my decision to have my beautiful baby girls. know they're fighters and they already have a high pain threshold.'