A day we didn't dare hope for: Premature twins born at just 27 weeks prepare for first day of school
Premature babies survived 20 blood transfusions between them, 19 weeks spent on oxygen and a meningitis scare
16:14 GMT, 16 August 2012
16:14 GMT, 16 August 2012
When twins Adam and Gemma Walker were born at just 27 weeks, they were so tiny their mother could hold them cupped in each hand.
The children were three months premature with Adam weighing 1lb 14oz and his sister tipping the scales at 2lb 5oz.
Pamela and her husband Graham could just wait and hope as their children clung to life in hospital, surviving at least 20 blood transfusions between them, 19 weeks spent on oxygen and a meningitis scare.
But now five years later they have reason to celebrate after they bought their twins their first school uniforms.
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Adam in a hospital incubator when he was first born. He was one of the smallest premature babies in Scotland to survive
Mrs Walker, 41, from Elrick, Aberdeenshire, said: 'It’s a day we didn’t ever dare hope for in those early months.
'We just had to live one day to the next because we were well aware that things could be going great one day and drastically change the next.
'We had our fair share of ups and downs, with blood transfusions and infections, and at one point Adam went downhill and they thought he had meningitis (but he didn't).
'But they have come a long way from when they were born.
'To see them now, about to start school and being the same as other kids, is all I could ever want.'
Adam, who is now taller than his sister, suffers from mild cerebral palsy as a result of his ordeal. But the battling youngster has never let it stand in his way, as he looks forward to starting school with his sister.
He and Gemma, who attended nursery together, will be in the same class when they start Elrick Primary School next week.
It will be a proud day for their parents, who tried for several years to have children before resorting to IVF.
Mrs Walker, a waste management officer, then feared she was going to lose both babies when her waters broke just 27 weeks into her pregnancy in February 2007.
She also faced further anguish and a daunting 60-mile ambulance journey to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee in the snow when she was told there were not enough neonatal cots at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.
When the twins were delivered the next day, however, she were given some hope when Gemma let out a tiny cry.
Mrs Walker said: 'At the point I realised I was in labour I did think, is it all going to go wrong
'When Adam was born he didn’t make a noise and we didn’t see him for four or five hours. But Gemma made a little squeak and we saw her as she was passing in the incubator. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had never seen such small babies.
'You could hold them in one hand. Adam’s hand was so tiny it could fit around my pinky, that was his grasp.'
The twins spent four weeks in the Dundee hospital, before they were transferred back to Aberdeen, where they continued their fight for life for another nine weeks.
Adam needed oxygen for 12 weeks, while Gemma was able to breath unaided after seven weeks.
They also needed around 12 blood transfusions each and were tube fed before they were finally allowed home on May 12, the day after their original due date.
Mrs Walker said: 'I had no idea babies could be born that early. I didn’t even get to antenatal classes. They started the week after they were born.'
When the twins left hospital at three months old, Gemma was still only just over 5lb and Adam weighed little more than 6lb – both smaller than the average newborn.
Fragile: Pamela sharing her first cuddle with baby Gemma
Gemma in an incubator just after birth. She and her brother were small enough to fit in the palm of an adult hand
Mrs Walker said: 'They have been through a lot, especially Adam. But they have come out of it really well. I can’t believe that’s them now about to start school.
'Although they seemed to be babies for a long time, now it seems likes it’s gone in a flash.
'Gemma has been shouting to go to school for weeks. I’m just delighted they’ve got this far. When they were born we dared not think that far ahead. We had to live one day to the next and the doctors kept saying they didn’t know what the long term outcome would be.
'But that’s them about to start school and they’ve been to nursery and everything seems to be going well and hopefully that will continue.'
The twins could have started school last summer. But at four-and-a-half they would have been among the youngest in their class and, following their traumatic start to life, Mrs Walker and her husband, a 47-year-old waste services manager, decided to hold them back until this year.
Mrs Walker said: 'This is the year they would have gone if they had been born in the May, so this is really their proper year.'
Gemma and Adam are now like any other typical children, with Gemma loving all things sparkly and pink and Adam, interested in cars, swings and the outdoors.
Mrs Walker said: 'They are both very different characters but they go pretty well together and they help each other out.
'Adam has mild cerebral palsy and Gemma knows his legs don’t work quite as well as hers. They miss each other when the other one is not around, hence I’ve asked for them to be in the same class.'