Little miracles: Born at only 23 weeks the health of these adorable twins is a modern medicine marvel, but raises troubling questions about Britain's abortion law limit… of 24 weeks
In June 2012, when she was 22 weeks pregnant and after passing a check-up, the couple took a beach holiday to Agadir in Morocco, with Lee’s family. But two days into the holiday, on June 10, when Pam was on the beach with Lee, her waters appeared to break.
She said: ‘Lee rushed me to hospital in Agadir – we were terrified. It was supposed to be the best specialist hospital in the area, but it was horrendous. It was dirty, the toilet was broken and the beds were rock hard. I was left in a corridor for a couple of hours before they found someone to work their ultrasound machine.’
The ultrasound revealed a tear in the amniotic sac surrounding one of the twins, which was leaking fluid, and the doctors explained there was nothing they could do to repair it.
Aged 186 days, Mackenzie, left, and Cameron, right, are all dressed up for their first Christmas
The fluid is vital to protect babies from infection and losing it can prompt early labour. Three days later, at 22 weeks and six days, Pam’s contractions started. She recalled: ‘The doctors said to me quite bluntly, “You can’t have your babies here because we won’t be able to save them.” ’
They urged Pam and Lee to return
immediately to the UK so the couple contacted their insurance company,
AGEAS, to arrange an air ambulance. But they say the company ‘dragged
its heels’ and claimed – wrongly, Pam says – that they had not told them
Pam was pregnant.
The nightmare lasted for several
agonising days until Saturday, June 16, nearly a week after Pam had been
admitted to hospital, when the air ambulance finally arrived.
Cameron's tiny footprint no Pam's fingertips show just how small the baby was at 21 days old
Pam was flown to Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton, one of the UK’s leading neonatal and birthing units. ‘I thought they’d be able to stop me from going into labour. But the doctors examined me and said, “We’re sorry, there’s nothing we can do to stop this.” I was terrified I would lose the babies.’
Legally, hospitals must resuscitate babies born from 24 weeks onwards. Hospitals can decide to help babies born before this point, but many have a blanket policy not to do so because the chances of survival are so low.
Twins have been born in the UK before 24 weeks but, in most cases, at least one does not make it.
youngest to survive, Archie and Harley Garthwaite, were born in
Newcastle last year at just 22 weeks. Mia and Scarlett Lavelle-Redrup
were born at 24 weeks in 2010 and are now two.
At 4am on Sunday, June 17 – Father’s Day – Pam went into the final stages of labour at 23 weeks and three days.
was so scared. I just thought there was no chance those little babies
were going to survive. It was heartbreaking. They had real personalities
by this point.
baby, who I now know was Cameron, was feisty and forever kicking around
and wriggling, and the bottom one, Mackenzie, was lazy, just kicking
back.’ Mackenzie was born first, at 5.42am.
Pam said: ‘We just sat back and cried.
I thought that was it. I just wanted them to do as much as they could
to keep him alive. A nurse said to me, “Do you want to see him” I
looked over and all I could see was this tiny blue woolly hat before
they whisked him away.’
6.04am, Cameron arrived and the couple spent agonising moments waiting
to hear if he could be saved, before he too was transferred to intensive
‘I was terrified out of my mind. I kept crying – both of us did,’ Pam said. ‘I asked how the babies were but no one knew.’
The relieved parents on the day they finally took their twins, aged 115 days, home to Jersey after a stay in Southampton hospital
an agonising four-hour wait, news began to filter through. Both boys
weighed just less than a pound and were in a critical condition.
were warned what to expect,’ Pam said. ‘We were living every hour to
begin with. Each one was a milestone. Then we got to a day, and then two
days. We know now that the doctors didn’t think they would survive,
although they were doing everything they could.
nearly lost Mackenzie on the second day but he picked up. It was
amazing. They just had this will to live – and my stubbornness, that’s
During that first week, Cameron had a bowel problem that needed an urgent operation.
Astonishingly, he survived. He also had eye problems but survived another delicate procedure.
The worst day came two weeks after
their birth, when both boys needed heart surgery to close a valve which,
in normal new-borns, closes naturally at birth. Pam and Lee were warned
that both could die during the surgery.
said: ‘That was a horrendous day, but again they both survived. They
are proper little miracles. They put up a fight at the time, and they
still are, bless them.’
The baby boys survived a traumatic premature birth – now their mother has questioned why the abortion limit has not been lowered
They continued to defy the odds and were allowed to leave Southampton on October 10 – ironically, Pam’s due date.
They spent another two months in hospital on Jersey until being allowed home on December 7 in time for Christmas. They no longer need oxygen – only feeding tubes because they tire easily and aren’t used to bottle feeding. The prognosis is still unknown because they are still very young, but Pam said: ‘They’re doing all the right things. It’s hard to look at them and think how premature they were.
‘We think of them as being three months old, not seven months old. But actually their development is on par with what they should be doing.
‘Cameron needs a cataract operation and they will probably have some lung issues to sort out later. They’ll need glasses and both will be short-sighted. But they’re alive.’
Having them home has been ‘wonderful’. Pam said: ‘It was so special having them with us at Christmas and they were spoilt rotten.’
She added: ‘I’ve got two bouncing baby boys, and Lee and I can only hope that their survival will cause people to think twice about having an abortion at such a late stage.
‘My boys are proof that babies at that age are capable of life.’
A spokesman for AGEAS said: ‘This was an extremely complex situation. Because of the seriousness, not all air ambulance providers were prepared to undertake the transfer.’