Twins Sapphire and Ruby Wirt sparkle with life despite being given almost no chance of survival after being born HOURS away from the abortion deadline.
The tiny pair, now two, were both smaller than their mother Caroline’s hand and doctors said it was incredibly unlikely they would both pull through.
They were covered in bubble wrap to keep warm after being delivered by cesarean section at 24 weeks – on the very last day of the legal limit for abortion.
But despite a string of health problems since their birth in January 2015 they have survived to become happy and healthy little girls.
Mum Caroline, 36, said: “I had them bang on the day I turned 24 weeks pregnant, which meant the hospital staff were able to intervene and help them breathe.
Any earlier and the chances were the doctors would not have been able to help them because that’s what the law says, and we would have lost them.
“But they were just the right side of the time limit and because they were breathing, they were able to step straight in and ventilate them.
“The doctors said it was very unlikely they would both survive. One of them might make it, but almost certainly not both of them.
“But they’ve overcome everything in their way which I’m sure is down to their unique bond.
“They’ve been together through everything and given each other the strength to survive.”
Caroline and husband Andy were told that if the twins were born before 24 weeks medics would not be able to step in and assist them if they weren’t breathing at birth.
The medical guidelines for Health Service hospitals state that babies should not be given intensive care if they are born at less than 23 weeks.
The guidance, drawn up by the Nuffield Council, is not compulsory but advises doctors that medical intervention for very premature children is not in the best interests of the baby and is not ‘standard practice’.
Caroline and her husband Andy, 36, were already parents to Nathan, 17, Keane, 11, and Blaise, eight, when they found out they were expecting their fourth child in August 2014.
But after her 12-week scan, Caroline suffered a number of heavy bleeds and had to be hospitalised on numerous occasions for the welfare of the babies.
She said: “Every time this happened I thought I was losing them.
“I just wanted to lie there and protect them but I had to move and keep going for my other children.”
But on January 4, 2015, at 23 weeks into her pregnancy, Caroline’s waters suddenly broke at the family’s home near East Grinstead, East Sussex.
She was rushed to the Trevor Mann neonatal intensive care at Royal Sussex County Hospital and placed on antibiotics while doctors monitored the babies.
While she could be treated fairly easily, doctors couldn’t risk the twins contracting it and so they were forced to deliver them by emergency cesarean.
She said: “It could have killed all of us as it shuts down all of your vital organs. The babies had to come out.
“Sapphire was born at 11.53 weighing 1lb 2oz and Ruby came along a minute later at 1lb 5oz.
“They were trying to breathe so they were ventilated straight away and took them to the intensive care unit.
“They had to undergo numerous blood transfusions and were put in bubble wrap blankets to keep them warm.”
Caroline was discharged from hospital five days later but she and Andy, a scaffolder, spent everyday at Ruby and Sapphire’s bedside.
A week on, the couple were devastated to be told Sapphire had taken a turn for the worst after contracting – necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a disease which occurs when tissue in the small or large intestine is injured or begins to die off
As a result, she developed a hole in the lining of her small intestine and needed emergency surgery to close it – but there was a high chance she wouldn’t survive the procedure.
Caroline said: “They though she probably wouldn’t pull through but if she didn’t have it she would die.
“We had no option because she would have died in pain. I knew we had to do it so I kissed her goodbye and prayed she’d come back to us.”
“We had to go through the same pain again, and hope she pulled through,” said Caroline.
“When they were born, the doctors said the first 72 hours were the most crucial and so we’d started to feel more confident. This pushed us back to square one.
“We couldn’t believe it when they told us she was OK as well. It was a miracle.”
But that wasn’t all the twins had to go through – six weeks later, Ruby needed surgery to fix a hole in her heart which should have closed at birth.
She also had to go back to theatre after suffering a second tear to her intestine as doctors tried to feed her again.
And, Sapphire later needed laser eye surgery in both eyes because of the amount of oxygen she’s been given to help her survive which damaged her sight.
The pair were finally allowed to go home on June 17,2015 when they were five-and-a-half months old – six weeks after their original due date.
Caroline said: “It was surreal to get them to come home and be part of normal family life.
“They have to go back for the odd check-up but the consultants now and they can’t believe that they survived.
“For one of them to pull through everything is one thing but to have both of them standing here is a complete miracle.
“We’ve been through so much and it’s so wonderful to see them as happy healthy little girls.”
To mark the occasion, Caroline and Andy tied the knot in December 2015, giving the family an extra reason to celebrate.
Caroline hopes their story will show other parents in similar situations that there is light at the end of the tunnel – no matter how bleak the future might look.
She added: “Me and Andy realised that if you’re with the wrong person it can tear your family apart but we just lent on each other.
“We didn’t want anyone else there because they didn’t understand. They just take it for granted everything will be OK but sometimes you really don’t think you’ll pull through it.
“I want to give other mums hope because there were times when I needed someone to tell me there was hope and it would be alright.
“We don’t plan on having any more children, we’re just going to treasure the ones we’re so lucky to have.”