A mum has told how her identical twins were left fighting for their lives due to a life-threatening condition which left one baby nearly DOUBLE the size of his brother.
Even though Emmett and Sebastian Murphy are identical twins, they looked far from the same when they were born.
A pre-natal scan at 23 weeks revealed they had twin to twin transfusion syndrome – where identical twins share a placenta unequally.
In the womb, Sebastian was getting too much blood and nutrients, while tiny Emmett wasn’t getting enough – a potentially fatal situation for them both.
Doctors warned worried parents Lauren Murphy, 34, and dad James, 38, that without treatment, there was less than 10% chance of survival.
And more than two months before their due date, Lauren underwent a terrifying emergency c-section in a bid to save the twins.
Tiny Sebastian, who was born weighing 3lb, and was almost twice the size of even tinier Emmett, who was born weighing just 1lb 9oz.
Miraculously both pulled through, but Emmett became so ill that his parents were told he might not last the night.
But after 25 blood transfusions and fighting off sepsis three times, Emmett was finally able to come home and be reunited with his twin – seven months after his birth.
Mum Lauren, a manager for The Body Shop, from Halesowen, Birmingham said: “I was in complete shock when I first saw the twins in the neonatal unit after being born – they looked so different.
“They were both so small, but especially Emmett – he looked like a foetus instead of a baby.
“I hadn’t realised quite how poorly they were until that moment. I remember thinking ‘how can a baby have that many wires attached to them?'”
“I think it really hit me when the doctor told me ‘there are 40-something babies on the unit and yours are the most sick’.
“We had barely even heard of twin to twin transfusion syndrome – and suddenly we were at risk of losing one or both of our boys because of it.
“But the care and treatment they received was amazing, and we’ll be forever grateful for the doctors and nurses for everything they did so we could bring our boys home.
“When they both finally came home, it was an incredible moment. It was the first time we had the whole family together in the same room, and we’d waited so long.
“Looking back, it was an emotionally and physically draining journey, but now the children are healthy and happy, and I’m proud of us as a family for getting through it.”
Lauren and James, an insurance trader, were over the moon to discover they were pregnant with twins, due in August 2016.
Already parents to three children – big brother Jack, 11, and big sisters Abby, seven, and Matilda, five – doctors later warned them they were sharing a placenta, increasing the chance of complications.
A 23-week scan revealed one of the twins, Emmett, seemed to have stopped growing, while Sebastian seemed to be growing very quickly.
They were diagnosed with twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) – a rare and often devastating condition which affects identical twins, because they share a placenta.
The condition occurs when blood passes from one twin, the donor, to the other twin, the recipient, through the placenta.
Professor Mark Kilby, a consultant in fetal medicine at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, said this causes an imbalance in blood pressure between the twins in-utero.
He said left untreated, the chances of surviving is less than 10%, and with treatment, the chances of both twins surviving is still only as high as 60%.
Lauren said: “They told us we were at high risk of losing both the boys, especially Emmett. He had barely any amniotic fluid – because it was all going to Sebastian.”
Concerned doctors were monitoring the twins’ progress with regular scans – and every scan showed Sebastian growing larger as Emmett became weaker.
On June 9 2016, still more than two months from the boys’ due date, Lauren went for a scan and received horrifying news – the doctors couldn’t find Emmett’s heartbeat.
She said: “We were told I needed an emergency caesarean section there and then to try and save the babies. I had no idea what was going to happen.
“I had to call my mum to bring an overnight bag for me – we hadn’t been expecting the boys for more than 11 weeks yet.”
Within three hours, the twins were delivered by c-section and rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Hours later Lauren and James were finally able to see the babies and were shocked to see that their ‘identical’ twins looked nothing alike.
Lauren said how Sebastian “looked like a beetroot” due to extremely high blood pressure, but Emmett “looked like he was see-through” as he was critically anaemic.
The days that followed were “absolutely petrifying” for Lauren and James, as the tiny babies fought for their lives.
Emmett had more than 25 blood transfusions, while Sebastian had bleeds onto his lungs from having too much blood, and had lumber punctures to remove excess fluid from his brain.
Both boys also suffered bleeds to the brain, and were put on ventilators.
After 13 weeks, Sebastian’s condition stabilised and he could come home – but tiny Emmett remained in critical condition.
Lauren said: “I was hysterical bringing Sebastian home – while I was thrilled he was doing well, it upset me that I couldn’t bring the boys home together.
“We had no choice, but it felt like we’d left Emmett all by himself away from his family.”
Emmett spent three more weeks in NICU before being transferred to the high dependency unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
He fought three bouts of sepsis, suffered a perforated bowel and had a stoma, which required surgery.
Lauren said: “At one point we were told he wouldn’t survive the night, and we should consider switching off his machine. He really was that sick.”
But in January 2017, Emmett finally started to improve.
“Some of the nurses told me they’d never seen such a sick baby pull through,” Lauren recalled.
“They told us he was a miracle.”
The family were finally able to bring Emmett home later that month – and for only the second time ever, the family were all in the same room together.
Lauren said: “That was an incredible feeling, properly bringing all of the family together.
“Bringing Emmett home and reuniting him and Sebastian after so long was amazing.”
Now aged four, the twins are doing very well and are living very happy lives, and started school in September.
They both have medical conditions due to their rough start in life, but “never let anything stand in their way in life” their mum said.
Emmett has cerebral palsy and Sebastian has some behavioural difficulties.
Lauren said: “I’m so proud of the boys and the fight they’ve put up to have a chance at life.
“It’s not been easy, but I’m proud of us as a family too. I don’t know if many families would have been able to get through the stress.
“I feel like I can see the light now. The boys have freedom and routine and that will help them make progress and achieve many things.
“They both love going to school and they seem to be doing really well and have settled in nicely.
“I have to give all the credit to Birmingham Children’s and Women’s hospitals for all the support they showed us and the boys during those months.
“We’ll be forever grateful for what they’ve done for our family.”