Jennie Powell, 41, went into labour at 22 weeks while on holiday in Cornwall (pictured with husband Rich, Ruben [L] and Jenson [R])
The parents of twins who were born at just 22 weeks weighing the same as half-a-bag of sugar have been reunited with the helicopter crew who saved their lives.
Jennie Powell, 41, went into labour on August 16 while on holiday in Cornwall.
Mrs Powell and her husband Rich, 42, rushed to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro where doctors decided she had to be transferred to a specialist neonatal unit.
With the nearest available bed in Oxford, the couple were flown by an HM Coastguard helicopter to the John Radcliffe Hospital.
Mrs Powell, of Brighton, gave birth to her sons Jenson and Ruben the following day.
Jenson, who weighed just 1lb 2oz (535g), was given a zero per cent of survival.
Ruben, who weighed 590g (1lb 4oz), was given a 20-to-30 per cent chance of life.
Against all the odds, the twins pulled through and are said to be the youngest surviving premature twin boys in Britain.
A year on, the family celebrated the ‘miracle’ by meeting up with the staff who flew them to Oxford and had no idea whether the boys survived until now.
The couple, from Brighton, rushed to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro where doctors decided Mrs Powell needed to be transferred to a specialist neo-natal unit. She was flown by HM Coastguard helicopter to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford (pictured with the helicopter crew and midwife Jane Parke for the first time since she was airlifted to hospital)
Jenson (right) was born the next day weighing 535g and given 0 per cent chance of surviving the first 48 hours, while Ruben (left) weighed 590g and had between 20 per cent to 30 per cent chance of life
Mrs Powell, a marketing manager, became pregnant via IVF after losing her son Linnie two years. Linnie was born at 23 weeks as a result of complications from a streptococcal B infection.
‘The twins’ pregnancy was being closely watched as a result of what we had been through when we lost our first child,’ she said.
With everything seeming to be fine, the couple were nearing the end of their annual two-week holiday in Cornwall.
Things took a dramatic turn for the worse when Mrs Powell felt an unpleasant sensation.
‘I felt some pain and just knew that something wasn’t right,’ she said. ‘We went straight to hospital and it was suddenly all too familiar.
‘The hospital ran tests and confirmed I was having contractions, and my blood results indicated an infection.’
While still in Cornwall, Mrs Powell was given steroids to help her babies’ underdeveloped lungs.
Steroids are synthetic form of natural human hormones. The medication travels to the baby’s lungs via their bloodstream.
Doctors then realised the care Mrs Powell needed could not be provided at their hospital.
‘The hospital team didn’t give up calling, and when the John Radcliffe Hospital said they could take us that afternoon we found ourselves being airlifted by the HM Coastguard helicopter from Newquay,’ she said.
Captain Jorg Brunner, co-pilot Ivan Hamilton, chief crewman Ian Copley and winchman-paramedic Niall Hanson took Mrs Powell and midwife Jane Parke on the one-hour-and-15-minute flight to Oxford.
‘That was a lifesaving decision,’ Mrs Powell said.
Jenson and Ruben were delivered by emergency C-section at 4.20pm and 4.21pm BST respectively the next day.
They are the youngest surviving pre-term twin boys (pictured with their parents left) born in Britain. They were conceived by IVF. Pictured right is midwife Jane Parke, who escorted Jennie Powell in a helicopter when she needed emergency transportation to Oxford from Cornwall
‘It really is a story of hope and miracles,’ said their mother. ‘They defied every set of odds that they were given’ (the family are pictured on the helicopter)
At eight days post-delivery, Ruben (left in both pictures) had his first lifesaving operation after his intestines began failing when he developed necrotizing enterocolitis. Meanwhile Jenson (right in both pictures) had his own issues, with weaknesses in his lungs
Captain Jorg Brunner, co-pilot Ivan Hamilton, chief crewman Ian Copley and winchman-paramedic Niall Hanson took Mrs Powell and midwife Jane Parke on the one-hour-and-15-minute flight to Oxford
The newborns were immediately rushed to neonatal intensive care.
‘We were being prepared for the likelihood of saying goodbye to another child,’ Mrs Powell said.
At just eight days old, Ruben had his first lifesaving operation after his intestines began failing. Jenson also needed treatment for his abnormally weak lungs.
The brothers are also said to be the youngest to receive an eye injection to cure retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Thisoccurs when the retina, which converts images into nerve signals for the brain, develops slowly in the womb.
This causes the retina’s blood vessels to only complete growing at the end of pregnancy. As a result, if a child is born premature, they can have poor vision.
Mr Powell, who works in telecoms, said: ‘The standard of care we received was outstanding.
‘The boys had it all – infections, more than 20 blood transfusions, sepsis, pneumonia, eye injections and laser surgery, hernia reversal, you name it.
‘The team at John Radcliffe were on top of everything.’
After pulling through, the boys are home and doing well.
‘Today, the boys are thriving,’ Mr Powell said.
‘They will continue to have chronic lung disease until they are about three, which can make them more vulnerable to colds and infections, requiring oxygen support, but otherwise they are doing really well.’
Mrs Powell added: ‘It really is a story of hope and miracles. They defied every set of odds that they were given.’
A year on, the family met up with the helicopter crew who flew them to Oxford.
‘After that day, Jane and the helicopter crew didn’t have any idea about what had happened to us; that the boys had survived,’ Mrs Powell said.
‘Being able to meet them again on the anniversary is so, so wonderful.
Jenson and Ruben were delivered by emergency cesarean section the following day at 4.20pm and 4.21pm respectively (pictured with the helicopter crew, Jenson left)
They were taken immediately to neonatal intensive care and faced a catalogue of major events in the following weeks and months (Coastguard chief Ian Copley is pictured lifting Jenson)
The parents are pictured with their twins outside the John Radcliffe Hospital
The parents are pictured holding their poorly twin boys shortly after they were born
‘We were being prepared for the likelihood of saying goodbye to another child,’ Mrs Powell said (pictured with both of her sons)
WHAT IS A PREMATURE BIRTH, AND WHAT ARE THE RISKS TO BABIES?
Around 10 per cent of all pregnancies worldwide result in premature labour – defined as a delivery before 37 weeks.
When this happens, not all of the baby’s organs, including the heart and lungs, will have developed. They can also be underweight and smaller.
Tommy’s, a charity in the UK, says this can mean preemies ‘are not ready for life outside the womb’.
Premature birth is the largest cause of neonatal mortality in the US and the UK, according to figures.
Babies born early account for around 1,500 deaths each year in the UK. In the US, premature birth and its complications account for 17 per cent of infant deaths.
Babies born prematurely are often whisked away to neonatal intensive care units, where they are looked after around-the-clock.
What are the chances of survival?
- Less than 22 weeks is close to zero chance of survival
- 22 weeks is around 10%
- 24 weeks is around 60%
- 27 weeks is around 89%
- 31 weeks is around 95%
- 34 weeks is equivalent to a baby born at full term