A pair of twins suffering from twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) survived — because one of the twins sent what doctors called a “distress signal” from inside the womb, saving her sister’s life.
28-year-old Leah McBride was pregnant with identical twins, but found out at 21 weeks that the girls, named Poppy and Winnie, had TTTS. This happens when there is an improper blood flow between the twins, where one twin gets the nutrients needed to grow, and the other does not. The McBrides were originally told that they would need a surgery to correct the issue, but that there was still only a small chance that the twins would survive — and, according to the Daily Mail, were advised to abort one of the twins so the other could survive. The parents refused.
“There was already a 48 per cent difference in the girls’ size and they were worried that Poppy would have a heart attack as she was passing all the nutrients to Winnie and they thought Winnie might have a stroke,” she said. “But I didn’t want to choose one baby over the other.”
She then sought a second opinion at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, and successfully underwent surgery to resolve the TTTS, only for McBride’s water to break at 27 weeks. She was given steroids to stop labor, and doctors worked to keep the babies in the womb for as long as possible.
But then, at 31 weeks, something incredible happened.
Winnie was the larger of the two twins, being the recipient of the nutrients, while Poppy was the so-called “donor” twin, so doctors had not initially been concerned about Winnie. Poppy’s heart rate became abnormal, so doctors decided to deliver both babies via c-section… only to realize that Poppy was perfectly fine.
It was Winnie, who they thought was the healthy twin, who was in distress.
“Our doctors told us, ‘I think your tiny twin saved her sister’s life,'” McBride said, according to the Daily Mail. ‘Poppy’s heart rate had been all over the place, so they had to deliver but when she was born, she completely fine. They think she was sending out distress signals because she knew her sister wouldn’t survive if they weren’t delivered then.”
Winnie’s lungs were underdeveloped, and she was taken to the NICU. She also had to have surgery at two weeks old to remove a build-up of fluid on her brain. If doctors had waited longer to deliver the twins, Winnie would not have survived.
Today, both twins are healthy and thriving — and still looking out for each other.
“Even now Poppy takes care of Winnie even though Poppy is still much smaller. I love having a big and little. They are so close – it’s sweet,” she said, adding, “They are as smart as can be. Winnie is smarter than average. She can read books from memory at three. I tried to move their beds apart recently and they weren’t having it. They are both amazing.”