A mother has hailed the ‘unbreakable bond’ between her premature twin boys after they survived being born at 25 weeks against the odds.
Hannah Zimunya, 28, from Wrexham, North Wales, was told to prepare for the worst when she went into labour 15 weeks early.
Her twins, Dylan and Deiniol, weighed just 2lbs and 1lbs 9oz when they were born at Maelor Hospital in Wrexham last October.
Their lungs were so underdeveloped they were transferred to the nearest neonatal intensive care unit in Royal Bolton Hospital 60 miles (97km) away.
There, they were hooked up to breathing machines and wrapped in plastic body bags to recreate the warmth and humidity of the womb.
After 14 weeks in hospital, Dylan’s condition started to improve and he was allowed to return home.
But Deiniol, who was reliant on ventilators to breathe, continued to deteriorate after he was split from his brother.
Doctors organised for Dylan, mother-of-five Hannah and husband Xavi, 40, to visit the younger brother to say goodbye.
But Mrs Zimunya claims just hours after the twins spent five minutes cuddled up together in the incubator, Deiniol’s oxygen levels started to shoot up and his condition improved dramatically.
Twins Dylan and Deiniol cuddle in Deiniol’s incubator after being born 15 weeks prematurely. Their mother claims this embrace saved Deiniol’s life
They weighed just weighing 2lbs and 1lbs 9oz when they were born at Maelor Hospital in Wrexham last October
Doctors told mother-of-five Hannah and husband Xavi, 40, to prepare for the worst as Deiniol’s condition deteriorated
She said medics arranged for Dylan to come back for another cuddle two days later and his brother was able to be taken off the ventilator completely.
Similar to the way a premature baby’s heart rate and breathing can improve with prolonged skin-to-skin contact with a parent, it is thought the comfort of physical closeness can work wonders not yet understood by experts.
After a seven month stay in hospital, Deiniol was finally fit and healthy enough to go home.
There is no scientific explanation for the sudden change in their health – although many parents of twins believe in what has become known as the ‘rescuing hug’.
She said: ‘You don’t expect both of your babies to be taken away from you almost as soon as you’ve given birth to them, even worse that they were transferred to a completely different hospital nearly 60 miles away.
‘When we took Dylan back to Bolton they were put together in the same incubator for a cuddle for a few minutes.
‘It was incredible, somehow Dylan, by just being there, managed to help Deiniol – he made him better.
‘I wasn’t expecting that at all and neither were the nurses and doctors. Within two days Deiniol was taken off his ventilator completely, it really was a miracle.
‘He saved his life with a cuddle, it was brilliant to watch and it showed all of us that they should never have been separated. That bond between twins really does exist.’
As soon as they were born, the brothers were placed inside plastic body bags to recreate the warmth and humidity of the womb which would protect their fragile skin, too thin to insulate their bodies
After 14 weeks in hospital, Dylan’s condition started to improve and he was allowed to return home. But Deiniol was still dangerously reliant on ventilators to breathe
The boy’s celebrated their first birthday last month. Today Deiniol is still receiving 24/7 oxygen at home, but his dose is being incrementally lowered until lungs are strong enough
WHAT IS A PREMATURE BIRTH, AND WHAT ARE THE RISKS TO BABIES?
Around 10 per cent of all pregnancies worldwide result in premature labour – defined as a delivery before 37 weeks.
When this happens, not all of the baby’s organs, including the heart and lungs, will have developed. They can also be underweight and smaller.
Tommy’s, a charity in the UK, says this can mean preemies ‘are not ready for life outside the womb’.
Premature birth is the largest cause of neonatal mortality in the US and the UK, according to figures.
Babies born early account for around 1,500 deaths each year in the UK. In the US, premature birth and its complications account for 17 per cent of infant deaths.
Babies born prematurely are often whisked away to neonatal intensive care units, where they are looked after around-the-clock.
What are the chances of survival?
- Less than 22 weeks is close to zero chance of survival
- 22 weeks is around 10%
- 24 weeks is around 60%
- 27 weeks is around 89%
- 31 weeks is around 95%
- 34 weeks is equivalent to a baby born at full term
Mrs Zimunya, a stay-at-home mother, became pregnant naturally last April, and throughout the six months enjoyed a stress-free pregnancy.
But three months before reaching full term, she began experiencing painful and frequent contractions and knew she was going into labour.
Doctors tried to delay the birth for one more week to increase the boys’ chances of survival.
Mrs Zimunya spent 52 hours in labour, giving birth naturally as it was the safest way to deliver the twins.
Within 12 hours both boys had been transferred to the Royal Bolton Hospital and put onto life-saving ventilators, which would breathe for them while they built up enough strength to go home.
As soon as they were born, the brothers were placed inside plastic body bags to recreate the warmth and humidity of the womb which would protect their fragile skin, too thin to insulate their bodies.
Former care home worker Mrs Zimunya said: ‘We were expecting the boys to be born early with them being twins, but I don’t think anyone expects or can prepare themselves to go through that. The whole experience was terrifying.
‘The doctors and nurses have to prepare you for the worst, so they’re telling you what could happen and as a mother that’s the hardest thing to hear – that you could lose your baby.’
Now both boys are back home and enjoying family life with their older siblings, TJ, eight, Lily, six, and Thandi, three. They celebrated their first birthday last month.
Deiniol is still receiving 24/7 oxygen at home, but his dose is being incrementally lowered until lungs are strong enough to breathe independently.
Cath Bainbridge, matron of Royal Bolton Hospital’s Neonatal Unit, said: ‘Every day we care for very premature and sometimes very poorly babies, and their families, and we try to care for each of them as if they were our own.
‘If there is something we can do for a family that can make their experience more hopeful, we try to do all in our power to make it happen. In the case of these two beautiful little boys it was beyond doubt the right thing to do.
‘All the team wish them a very happy first birthday, and many more to come.’