First-time mum Jayne Sefton distraught after Annabelle and Ruby were given slim chance of survival – but they were saved by pioneering op
A pioneering operation saved a mum’s twin daughters after a potentially fatal condition caused one to grow almost twice as big as the other in the womb.
First-time mum Jayne Sefton was nearly halfway through her pregnancy when her bump had suddenly grown and she was given the devastating news.
The 26-year-old planned a funeral for twins Annabelle and Ruby after they developed rare twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) and were given a slim chance of survival.
The condition is fatal in 90 per cent of cases if left untreated but both babies were born healthy after Jayne underwent ground-breaking laser surgery.
At around 18 weeks Jayne, a former care worker, and her partner bookmaker David Smith, 30, noticed her bump had grown significantly larger, so she went for a scan at Liverpool Women’s Hospital .
It was there they were told Annabelle was 12 per cent larger than sister Ruby due to TTTS, which sees identical twins have different sacs in the womb but share the same placenta, causing blood flow between them to become unbalanced.
The condition means the donor twin becomes small and anaemic while the recipient gets bigger and has a higher blood volume, leading to strain which can cause heart failure.
The survival rate only increases to 70 per cent following medical intervention.
Jayne, from New Brighton, Merseyside, said: “The hardest bit of this was having to decide what we wanted to do for a funeral because that was a very real threat, particularly for Ruby.
“It’s not what I expected to be doing when I was pregnant. I couldn’t go and look for cute outfits or anything when I had to deal with the condition and potentially planning a funeral.
“The other difficult thing as they were identical, would be that if one girl had died, it would have been like having a reminder of what the other one would have looked like all the time.
“I had never heard of the condition before and everyone I spoke to just said ‘oh twins, I’d love to have twins’ not realising how complicated twin pregnancies can be.
“The day I had the surgery was one of the most stressful days of my life so far and it was a relief to hear two heartbeats after the operation.”
This March, Jayne underwent a revolutionary 45-minute laser ablation procedure at St King’s College Hospital in central London at 24 weeks pregnant.
During the operation doctors used a laser beam to seal off some of her placenta’s blood vessels so both babies received a more equal supply of blood – with Jayne, who was conscious, able to watch the procedure on a screen.
And just hours before the procedure she found out Annabelle had increased in size again and was now more than 50 per cent bigger than Ruby.
Both babies were also now suffering from twin anaemia-polycythaemia sequence, an amemia caused by their condition, and while Annabelle had 13cm of amniotic fluid around her Ruby had barely any left.
Professor Kypros Nicolaides, who pioneered the laser treatment in the capital, performed the urgent surgery with the help of Dr Surabhi Nanda from Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
Following Jayne’s successful operation, she was expected to undergo a planned ceasarean at Liverpool Women’s Hospital at 7.30pm on August 10.
But the two twins had other ideas and Jayne went into labour at around 1am that morning – successfully delivering the identical pair at 35 weeks and four days old.
And despite their size difference in the womb the duo were only separated by less than a pound, with Ruby weighing in at 4lbs 1oz and Annabelle at 5lbs exactly.
Jayne said: “Since 18 weeks I had a chalkboard in the kitchen counting down the days until the c-section and it is pretty amazing they managed to get to 35 weeks and four days.
“Both girls are doing extremely well – Ruby spent just half a day in the ICU and Annabelle was only in there for a day and a half.
“Since then, they have been hitting all their milestones and doing great.
“This is a condition that kills more babies than cot death. When you think about how much people talk about that, then it is important to get the word out about it.”
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