By Niamh Shackleton
Their parents, Tabitha, 26, and Ben Rean, 27, were devastated when they were informed of the news that they could lose both their twins.
Tabitha – who was then 18 weeks pregnant – decided to undergo the pioneering surgery which involved a laser ablation to ensure the babies were both receiving an equal supply of blood.
Before the surgery Isla was at risk of heart failure and Jemima was severely anaemic due to TTTS – but thankfully, their surgery in the womb was a success.
At 29 weeks pregnant, Tabitha gave birth to both twins and despite being 11 weeks premature and weighing less than 6lbs between them, they were released from hospital six weeks later.
Now one-years-old, Isla and Jemima, are doing amazingly well at home and have hit all their milestones.
Tabitha, an illustrator, said: “Just as I thought I was going to be able to start enjoying my pregnancy after overcoming my severe morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum, we got the horrific news that the girls were suffering with TTTS.
“It was beginning to cause Isla to have heart failure and Jemima to become severely anaemic.
“I had missed my vital 16 week scan because he consultant thought I didn’t need it – despite it being important for women with twins to have it.
“Luckily I got in before my 18 week scan, as the girls were diagnosed with stage three TTTS, but they could have potentially diagnosed the TTTS sooner making it lower risk.
“It felt like someone had ripped my heart out of my chest and shredded it into a million little pieces.”
Tabitha had to endure the surgery which entailed a cannula and needle being inserted through the maternal abdominal wall, uterine wall and into the amniotic sac of the ‘recipient’ twin, which in this case was Isla.
Without it, doctors warned that there was a 90-95 per cent chance that they’d not survive.
The couple were also warned that surgery isn’t always successful at ensuring the twins get the same amount of blood and even with surgery there was just a 50 per cent chance they’d both survive.
She said: “When I walked into the operating theatre, there were computers and screens everywhere with around 12 people all dressed in scrubs – I’ve never been so frightened in my life.
“Both Ben and I were petrified as we really didn’t have any idea if the twins would survive the surgery and we couldn’t bare the idea of losing our twins.”
Miraculously, just 20 minutes after the operation at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, the ultrasound showed two healthy heart beats.
Over the following weeks the scans continued to show two heart beats and no neurological damage from the TTTS.
Tabitha said: “Every time I would lie on the ultrasound bed, it’s as if the world would stand still until I’d hear them confirm two heart beats.
“As well as being scanned weekly, I had a 90 minute long MRI scan to check if the girls had any neurological damage – it took so long because they were both wriggling around so much that the radiographers struggled to get a still picture!”
It wasn’t until 29 weeks that Tabitha went into labour 11 weeks early – another shock for the couple.
She added: “Ben and I were cuddled up on the sofa after a lovely day out when I began to experience constant pain and regular contractions.
“Something didn’t seem right, and when we looked it up, we realised I was in labour.
“We were really anxious about their early arrival as it wasn’t expected.”
Once at the hospital, doctors tried to postpone Tabitha’s labour as long as they could, but after 14 hours decided to go through with an emergency C-section.
Isla and Jemima were born on November 9, 2017 and weighed just under six pounds between them.
But after over six weeks in hospital, Tabitha and Ben were able to take the twins home.
Now, 14 months on, the couple are settling in well to a family of four – they are now wanting to thank those who helped bring their daughters into their lives.
Tabitha said: “The staff at Birmingham Women’s Hospital and Worcester Royal were fantastic and our two beautiful daughters wouldn’t be here without all their efforts.
“That’s why Ben is now fundraising for future research so they can help save lives in the future.
“We feel so incredibly lucky to have our two beautiful little girls.
“We can’t put into words how grateful we are to all of the medical teams that saved our family – thank you will never be enough.”
To raise money for TAMBA, a charity for twins and multiple births, Ben is taking part in the Prudential London to Surrey 100 mile bike ride in August 2019.