The Vanstone family at Bundaberg North Supa IGA.
The Vanstone family at Bundaberg North Supa IGA. Contributed

Hannah and Summer are little miracles

THANKS to the life-saving care Bundaberg twins Hannah and Summer received at Mater Mothers' Private Hospital, they are now healthy and happy two year-old girls, but their start to life didn't go quite to plan.

Parents Emma and Aaron Vanstone were excited to receive the news they were pregnant not long after getting married in 2012.

At their 12 week scan they saw two heart beats and were overjoyed to hear they were having identical twins.

Then at 19 weeks pregnant, Emma and Aaron were told their twins had Twin to Twin transfusion syndrome and may need to be delivered early.

"We were so happy to be starting a family and it was a beautiful experience finding out we were having girls. It was scary to find out about the girls condition and we just prayed they would grow as much as possible before their birth," Mrs Vanstone said.

With identical twins that share a single placenta, approximately ten per cent are affected by a condition called Twin to Twin transfusion syndrome where there is an imbalance of blood flow from one twin to another.

Hannah and Summer were not growing correctly and both were at risk of heart failure.

At 30 weeks, Mr and Mrs Vanstone drove to the Sunshine Coast for a baby-moon.

Although they were only meant to be away for two days, Mrs Vanstone ended up being admitted to Mater Mothers' Hospital to receive steroid injections to help the babies' growth leaving Mr Vanstone to drive back to Bundaberg to pick up the maternity bag.

While Mr Vanstone was gone, doctors made the decision that the babies needed to be delivered urgently by Caesarean section. Aaron made it back just in time to see the birth of his daughters.

Hannah weighed 1610 grams and Summer only 1140 grams.

"We were supposed to be in for the weekend, but that quickly changed when the girls needed to be delivered ten weeks early. Two separate teams of NCCU specialists were ready to care for each baby when they arrived," Mrs Vanstone said.

"Our whole maternity plan was turned upside down. We were renovating our house and thought we had more time but the girls had other ideas. We were so grateful they were born at Mater Mothers where they received the best care possible."

"I'll never forget the first time I saw the girls and they were held up. I felt immediate love and protection, hope and despair all at the same time. I only saw them for a second before they needed assistance by the doctors and nurses. It wasn't until four hours later I could touch them for the first time and then three days later I actually got to hold them in my arms for a cuddle."

During their first weeks in Mater's Neonatal Critical Care Unit, the twins were placed on CPAP to help them breathe.

A few weeks later at 34 weeks the twins started to breathe on their own and progressed from intensive care to special care where they put on weight and were able to grow before being able to go home.

For almost two months, Emma lived at Mater in housing on-site while Mr Vanstone travelled back and forth to work in Bundaberg.

"It was so hard every night to leave my babies in hospital even though I was staying close by. The Mater doctors and nurses were outstanding and constantly kept us informed of the girls' progress and looking after us as parents too- it takes special kind of medical staff to do that role," he said.

At 35 weeks the girls were ready to go home and flew back to Bundaberg staying in their local hospital for three weeks before finally sleeping in their own nursery.

The girls still need to visit Brisbane a few times per year for growth and development check-ups until they're six years old.

Mrs Vanstone said she encouraged families to support the Mater Little Miracles Easter appeal.

"When you find out you're pregnant, you assume you're going to give birth to a healthy baby and dream about their first words, their first steps and their bright future. Not every family is fortunate enough to deliver a healthy baby and they need all the help and love from the experts at Mater to give them a fighting chance. We feel so blessed to have come out the other side," she said.

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