Twins Tillie and Lottie Fowler are special in so many ways. They’re thought to be Scotland’s earliest surviving twins after being born at just 23 weeks and three days.
Lottie was born still inside the amniotic sac – which is so rare it occurs in fewer than one in 80,000 births.
Despite arriving 17 weeks early, the identical girls from Glasgow are now 15 months and doing well, sitting and crawling and standing up trying to walk.
Today is World Prematurity Day, raising awareness of premature births.
As the day’s theme is purple, the twins returned to the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital in Glasgow where they were born, wearing hats with purple pompoms.
Their proud parents Jenna, 27, and Stuart, 30, a steel erector, are so grateful they have the girls and want to give hope to other parents that premature babies can not only survive but also thrive.
Jenna said: “All the babies who come through the neonatal unit are special. We don’t refer to the girls as being miracle babies – we just believe they were strong enough to get to the end of their journey and go home. We couldn’t have done it without the amazing medical staff.
“We believe they’re the earliest surviving twins in Scotland. We’ve been extremely lucky that they’ve managed to survive being born so early – they’re our precious babies and we will cherish them forever. I can’t thank the hospital enough for everything.”
In Scotland, about seven per cent of all babies are born premature – classed as those who are under 37 weeks.
Lead nurse for neonatal and paediatrics for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Tricia Friel said: “If you were born at 35 or 36 weeks, you might not come into a neonatal unit and could be well enough to stay with your mum.
“The more premature you are, the more likely you are to require support when first born. It’s a very stressful and worrying time for families if your baby is born early.
“Survival rates for these babies are improving year on year. The vast majority leave our neonatal units and go home to their families. But there is a small percentage that don’t survive and it’s important that we provide them with appropriate support.”
Tillie and Lottie were due on December 5 last year – but Jenna went into sudden labour early and they were born on August 11.
She said: “I arrived at hospital and thought they were going to check me over and they said I was in labour.”
Jenna arrived at 10am and Tillie was born 15 minutes later weighing 1lb 6oz. Jenna said: “She was hanging out when I arrived at the hospital but I didn’t realise.”
Lottie then arrived still inside the amniotic sac at 10.24am weighing 1lb 9oz. “It’s so rare, some midwives never see that. It’s meant to be very lucky,” Jenna added.
Stuart missed Tillie’s birth but got there in time to see Lottie being born. Jenna said: “They were tiny. They didn’t look like babies – just very tiny and very fragile. I was probably quite scared to look.They were about the size of your hand.”
The girls battled through and had to travel to London to receive specialist help for their eyes. But after 125 days in hospital, they made it home on December 12 – initially still on oxygen.
Jenna said: “We were delighted the girls had come home after this journey. Obviously, getting them home for Christmas was fantastic.”
They’re still being monitored but they’re continuing to make good progress.
Keilan Tonner also returned to the hospital that saved his life to help raise awareness. When he was born 15 weeks early, Keilan weighed just 2lbs and his family feared he might not make it.
One early picture shows mum Lynne Duffy holding his minute hand that was the size of her finger tip.
Now he’s 20 months and he walks, talks, climbs, runs and kicks and throws balls.
Lynne, 39, and partner Paul, 46, from Glasgow, already had eight children and were over the moon to discover they were having baby No9 and a second boy after seven girls.
They have daughters Harlow, nearly three, Beau, five, Lexi, eight, Kodie, 13, Abbie, 15, Kayla, 18, Kelsey, 21, and son, Declan, 22.
But when Lynne was only 25 weeks and four days pregnant, she suddenly went into labour and was rushed to hospital on March 10 last year.
She hadn’t been due to give birth until June 19. Fearing he might not make it, she quickly named him Keilan so he didn’t leave without a name.
Lynne said: “I thought he was going to pass away on the way up to intensive care. I thought, ‘He’s not going without a name’.” A few hours later, Lynne got to visit her son. She said: “He was just so tiny, my hand could cover his whole body.”
Keilan made progress but there were moments when his condition dipped and Lynne feared the worst. Thankfully, each time he pulled back, even after suffering lung disease, a CMV infection and having laser eye surgery to prevent blindness.
A week before leaving hospital, Keilan was able to breathe unaided and finally made it home 15 weeks later.
Lynne said: “I cannot believe how lucky I am but he has come such a long way. He’s a little miracle. I want to give hope to others.”
Family and friends have raised £9500 for the Princess Royal Maternity baby fund through events including a Santa dash and charity night to say thanks for saving his life.
Lynne said: “We wanted to give something back to the hospital to put towards helping other babies. I can never thank them enough for what they’ve done.”
Another little one to return to the hospital was Sophia Fenwick, who weighed 1lb 8oz when she was born at 27 weeks and six days.
Now she’s 20 months and parents Andrew and Claire, from Cumbernauld, feel so lucky she’s done so well.
Community worker Andrew, 32, and NHS manager Claire, 30, discovered their baby was a bit small on a 20-week scan. Claire was regularly monitored and then gave birth to Sophia on March 24 last year.
Andrew said: “The first time I got to cuddle her she was two weeks old and I could ball her up into one hand up against my chest.”
Now she is doing really well. Andrew said: “She’s the happiest little girl you could ever imagine. She’s just starting to get language, is picking up new words and toddling around.”
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