Frazer and Cole have miraculously thrived after being diagnosed with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome during mum Yasmin’s 18 week scan.
When her identical miracle twins celebrate their first birthday on Monday, a paediatric nurse will relive the most harrowing 45 minutes of her life, when she watched as doctors operated on her boys in the womb – six weeks before her pregnancy was considered viable.
Medics spotted a big fluid imbalance between the boys, who shared a placenta, at their mum Yasmin Wacey’s 18 week scan and diagnosed twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) – where one twin receives a disproportionate amount of blood in the womb, leaving the other lacking fluid.
Without an emergency laser ablation – a procedure which involves making an incision and passing an endoscope into the uterus, then sealing off the blood vessels on the surface of the placenta to stop the blood exchanging between the twins -there was a 90 per cent chance the babies would die.
But what their parents Yasmin, 27, and vehicle damage assessor Lee Francis, 32, of Luton, Bedfordshire, did not know was that, even with treatment, in their case, there was a 50 per cent chance their twins, Frazer and Cole, would be disabled or have a long-term condition and only a 25 per cent chance they would survive.
Yasmin said: “It’s only now that I really think about how close we came to losing them and how amazing it is that they are doing so well.
“The consultant told us without the surgery the twins would not survive and I didn’t realise until afterwards that doctors had said that, with us, the survival rate with the surgery was only 25 per cent.”
She recalled: “That came as a shock. It was so scary but at the time the adrenaline kicks in and you just want to do anything to save your babies.
“But their rocky start has not had an impact on their lives. They are happy, healthy boys with so much personality.
“I know a lot of twins who had TTTS are left with lasting brain damage but we’ve been so lucky that ours are okay.”
With TTTS, according to the charity Twins and Multiple Births Association (TAMBA), the lack of blood supply will affect the growth of one twin, known as the donor, while the recipient twin has a higher blood volume, which can put a strain on their heart and led to them producing excess fluid.
After TTTS was diagnosed at Yasmin’s scan, she was swiftly referred to London’s King’s College Hospital, where a laser ablation was performed two days later, after which doctors drained the amniotic fluid – draining 1,300ml from Frazer alone.
Being just 18 weeks pregnant meant she still had six weeks to go before the twins were considered to be ‘viable’ under UK law, meaning it would be ‘normal practice’ to offer them ‘full invasive intensive care and support’ if they were born, unless one of them was in a very bad way.
Yasmin explained: “Cole had no visible bladder and was stuck to the wall of the uterus because all of his fluid was going to his brother, which was putting a strain on Frazer.
“Cole was losing all his nutrients.
“It was reading the information afterwards that made me realise they had such a small chance of surviving. It was terrifying.”
“I had local anaesthetic, so was awake during the procedure, but the consultant was incredible and really put me at ease,” she explained.
“I was able to watch what they were doing on the television screen, so I could see Frazer, who was the recipient twin. It was quite amazing.”
The anxious parents then had to wait for a couple of hours afterwards before being scanned to see if both babies still had a heartbeat.
Yasmin continued: “If anything was going to go wrong it was going to be pretty quickly so we were really anxious, but they were okay. Although I couldn’t actually relax until I felt them move at 24 weeks.
“I could differentiate between the twins, because they were on different sides, so I knew they were both okay.
“Each week that passed they were improving and growing.”
“Cole was actually the smaller twin, but by the time they were born he was bigger, so he definitely got his own back,” Yasmin recalled.
“I think it was only when we got past 29 weeks that I actually started to fully relax.”
After Yasmin’s waters broke at 33 weeks, she was admitted to Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, where she had been booked in for a c-section at 36 weeks. But, because her contractions started, it was brought forward to 34 weeks.
On September 9, 2018, Frazer was born first at 4.22pm weighing 4lb, followed by Cole at 4.24pm weighing 4lb 2oz.
“I heard them cry and then they were brought to me, so I could give them each a kiss before they were taken to the neo-natal intensive care unit,” Yasmin recalled.
“An hour later I could go and see them. They were perfect.”
Yasmin continued: “They spent four hours in the intensive care unit, then they were taken to the special care unit, where they had to learn how to feed because they were premature and their suck and swallow had not developed.
“It felt like it was never going to happen, but at 12 days, it clicked and then they were discharged from hospital at 13 days.
“They were still so tiny when we brought them home, but perfect.”
Developing well, both boys started crawling at nine months and can now stand up.
“Frazer has even started saying ‘Mum,’” Yasmin said.
“They babble away and talk to each other. I have no idea what they are saying but they seem to understand!”
“Their development has been great. They are huge now – 22lb each,” she said.
“They are so content and happy all the time, they hardly whinge. They are content as long as they know the other is in the room. too.
“They also have very distinct personalities. Frazer is a mummy’s boy. He’s absolutely wild. He’s cheeky and like wild fire, he’s so quick. You turn your back and he’s just gone.”
Yasmin added: “Cole was a lot more chilled and very calm, but he’s coming out of his shell now. Frazer gets on his nerves because he’s quite loud, but Cole has had enough now and wants to be the one to shout. He’s a bit more of a daddy’s boy.
“They love each other and get really excited when they see each other, but they also fight and bite each other.
“They climb up everything and try and headbutt each other. They are real boys. It’s hard work, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
To celebrate their first birthdays, the boys are going to Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, for the weekend with their parents and they will have a family party.
Meanwhile, Yasmin has set up an Instagram page to offer support to other families who have TTTS babies.
“I made the mistake, as everyone does, of googling the condition and all it gives you is information about survival rates, which is not what you need to read about when you are faced with this,” she said.
Yasmin concluded: “I wanted to show people how you get through it emotionally.”
“I spoke to another mum who had her babies and they were fine. It’s nice to be honest about how to deal with it and to give people some hope.
“The medical professionals can do amazing things and we are so grateful to those at Luton and Dunstable and King’s College hospitals as, without them our boys wouldn’t be here.”
Follow the twins’ adventures on Instagram @identicaltwinbrotherz
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