A preemie born 12 weeks early — and dramatically underweight — has had help along the way, thanks to time spent cuddling with his twin brother.
Kelly Graves found out at 16 weeks pregnant that there was a potential problem with her twins — there was a 25% size difference between them. It turned out that the size difference between the two, named Chester and Otis, was due to Selective Intrauterine Growth Restriction (sIUGR), in which nutrients from the placenta are shared unequally. One twin gets too much, while the other gets too little, which explained why Chester was so small.
At 19 weeks, doctors began trying to intervene, admitting Graves to Kings College Hospital in London. “I had to have endoscopic laser surgery, whereby they enter the womb through the side of your body in order to reach the placenta and kill off the blood vessels connecting the two babies,” she told the Metro. “The surgery was performed to separate the babies in the womb so that if Chester hadn’t survived it would have protected Otis from dying or being left with lasting brain damage.”
But following the surgery, Chester still lagged behind Otis in growth. “I was being told at every scan that he may not survive which was heart-breaking,” Graves said in an interview with the Daily Mail. “I went away and was eating around 200g of protein per day to help him grow and was drinking around five litres of water to try and get Chester’s water levels up because they were also low. This was not in any way proven to help, but I tried everything I could to replenish his levels and keep him fighting.”
Things began to look up as Chester’s weight started to stabilize, but at 28 weeks, Graves’ water broke. The boys were coming early, and though Chester had gained some weight, there were now problems with his heart, and doctors weren’t sure he would survive the c-section. “We just had to hope that he would keep fighting,” she said.
After they were born, Otis was stable enough to be ventilated, but Chester was too weak, and needed to be stabilized first. It turned out there were still more complications for the tiny twin.
“When Chester came out, they found a knot in his cord which also halted his growth, and the consultant was desperate to get him incubated as soon as possible to help him survive,” she explained. “Thankfully they were able to ventilate him and ever since he has been fighting multiple issues such as Necrotising Enterocolitis, or NEC, which is a serious condition where tissue in the bowel becomes inflamed, which Chester caught after nine days. He also had a hole in his heart which was discovered afterwards, which has now thankfully closed, and also eye surgery.”
The twins were kept apart after birth, and Otis was able to go home from the NICU after six weeks. But once they were finally reunited in September, the time with his brother gave Chester strength.
“I have no doubt that cuddles with his twin has helped him keep fighting,” Graves said. “The twins finally met for the first time since being born on September 22, which was incredibly emotional. It was everything I was waiting for, and although Otis was asleep, Chester was obsessed with him and couldn’t take his eyes away from his brother. Since the day my waters broke at 28 weeks we’ve lived in a whirlwind. But we are so lucky that Chester is a fighter and despite everything he has been through, he is still fighting in order to come home and be with his parents, Otis and the rest of the family. He is still being incubated and kept on high flow oxygen since being transferred back to our local hospital in Southend. We cannot wait to finally get Chester home. We are hoping to bring him back in November.”
However, according to an update on the family’s Instagram page, the twins are currently both in the hospital, fighting separate battles. Chester, who had made amazing progress, has regressed, while Otis was admitted for stomach problems and infection. Despite the hardship, Graves said it’s been worth it.
“It’s been the most gut wrenching, terrifying and exhausting 10 weeks of my life but I’d do it all in a heartbeat,” she wrote. “I’m [sic] finally beginning to breathe and I pray that I’m nearly at the end of this rollercoaster ride. I’ll be forever grateful for my miracle boys.”
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