From Daily Mail: A set of twins has survived thanks to groundbreaking in-the-womb surgery.
Jake and Oli Whettingsteel were never expected to make it after their first ultrasound at 12 weeks showed one of the boys was feeding from a single blood vessel. They were suffering from rare twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) where blood flows abnormally between the babies – meaning Jake received all the nutrients while Oli was being starved.
A generation ago, there would have been no options for their parents Ben, 34, and Jane, 33. But surgeons at St George’s Hospital, London, defied expectations by performing a laser operation to separate the boys’ blood vessels at 17 weeks – while they were still in Jane’s uterus.
Even with the operation, there is just a 50 percent chance that both would make it to the birth. However, the pregnancy continued smoothly, and at 29 weeks both boys were born – a minuscule 2lb 15oz each, but healthy. Defying all the odds, they have now made it to their first birthday.
Jane, a human resources manager, described how scary it was discovering the boys’ condition when she was just 12 weeks pregnant. ‘The sonographer asked how it was going, then her tone became worried – she’d spotted something,’ Jane said.
Jane and her partner, retail manager Ben Whettingsteel, were told their babies were critically ill with TTTS, a disease that affects 15 percent to 20 percent of identical twin pregnancies where they share a placenta. For the next five weeks, Jane had repeated scans.
When she reached 17 weeks, the babies were considered big enough for the laser surgery. Jane said: ‘I tried so hard to be really calm throughout my pregnancy as I didn’t want any additional stress to harm the babies. I decided I was going to be positive and say that I knew I could do this. I was determined to do everything in my power to keep these babies safe.‘
In September 2015, Jane underwent the 45-minute procedure at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, southwest London. Doctors inserted a small camera into Jane’s stomach before using lasers to separate the blood vessels between the boys. Only one small blood vessel was found to be feeding Oli. Doctors told Jane if the vessel was any smaller, the babies would have died.
‘That was the scariest moment, when I realized we were really close to losing them,’ Jane said. ‘I couldn’t get over how miraculous that surgery was. It was so intricate and they could do it without damaging anything. I have been left with just a tiny mark on my stomach.’ One week later, the identical twins had grown to the same size and Jane’s pregnancy continued as normal – until just before 28 weeks.
When Jane went to pick up her daughter Jessica, five, from her last day of school before the Christmas holidays, she started bleeding. Doctors gave her steroids and magnesium sulfate to help the babies develop, in case she went into premature labor. Jane added: ‘They basically said prepare yourself, we might need to take them out now.
‘Fortunately they said they didn’t think the bleeding was coming from the boys, but they told me I would need to stay in Winchester hospital until they were born.’
On December 30, while in the hospital, Jane started suffering what were believed to be Braxton Hicks, or false contractions. But when it was realized she was eight centimeters dilated, Jane was taken to surgery for an emergency Cesarean section.
Shortly before 9pm, Jake was born weighing 2lb 15oz and then Oli, weighing 2lb 14oz. Eleven weeks early, both boys were small but relatively healthy. ‘They both cried immediately, which was really reassuring,’ Jane said. ‘The surgery had been successful because they were both almost the same weight.’
Because of their size, Jake and Oli were taken to the neonatal ward as they needed oxygen and were jaundiced. Oli was taken off oxygen 24 hours later and Jake followed him three days later.
The boys spent seven weeks and six days in the hospital, getting bigger and stronger every day. Jane said: ‘We were really lucky, they just needed to grow.
Read the rest of the story here.