25th June 2024

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Greg Johnston

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Oonagh & Orlaith’s Story

In November 2021 our twin girls Oonagh and Orlaith were born via Emergency Cesarian at 31 weeks gestation. They weighed 3lb5oz and 3lb9oz and were absolutely perfect. They were taken straight to SCBU at the Cumberland Infirmary and worked on straight away to save their lives.
When we first went to see the girls we were given Parent Bags from Team Evie with some lovely gifts in for us and the girls.

The miniboos from the bag were placed with each twin and they instantly grasped them and held them in their tiny little hands. On their second day of life both girls ended up needing to be placed on a ventilator and transferred to Sunderland. At this point they were going to be separated for the first time and not in the same room together because they were too poorly to go together. To give them comfort we swapped their miniboos round so they both had the scent of their other half with them for the journey in the ambulance. I know that gave both them and us so much comfort.

I (their mum) was too poorly at the time to go with them as I had complications so had to stay behind at Carlisle while their dad went with them and was given free accommodation in Sunderland at the hospital. It was the hardest time of my life being away from both them, my husband and my gorgeous older boy Patrick that wasn’t allowed to visit any of us due to COVID restrictions.

I was alone.

The only thing I felt I was able to do to help was express milk and I used the notebook and pen to logg how much milk I was expressing. To this day I cherish that book. That book kept me going. It made me feel useful. I ended up developing an oversupply of milk which was amazing for my twins but also very painful and being able to keep a log was very useful. The water bottle also came in very useful to keep me hydrated.

We also were given in the bags a toy sheep teddy each which was their first ever toy and premature socks which were their first ever items of clothing. Most parents are able to plan for their birth and buy things like this for their babies but this was lovely for us and so appreciated.
Eventually my feisty girls extubated themselves at Sunderland and after a week of them being there I discharged myself and travelled to be with them. The day after I got there we were told they had gained enough strength so we were transferred back to Carlisle SCBU.

We then spent a long 5 weeks in Carlisle SCBU. Other premie parents will know how much time you spend sitting and watching your babies in the incubators at this point of their journey. They are too small and vulnerable so be handled and held too much as they need that time to grow, heal and develop their brain. It goes against every instinct you have as a parent and you cherish every “cares” you are able to do for them as it means contact with them. We kept ourselves busy with the colouring books and reading books given to us by Team Evie and reading books from the Team Evie library on the unit.

Our girls then both developed NEC and it became clear that we would be in hospital over Christmas. What a strain on your heart is when your other child still isn’t allowed to visit because of restrictions so you know you can’t have your children together on Christmas day. On Christmas day when we came into the ward we saw that the girls had been visited by santa and had a little pile of presents each, cards for their special big brother and us made by the ward, and a box of goodies in the family kitchen for the parents on the ward to share, provided by Team Evie. We cried happy tears, it meant so much.

Eventually in early January we finally managed to get our girls home and they met their big brother for the first time.

We can’t thank Team Evie and everyone at Carlisle SCBU and Sunderland NICU enough for everything they did for us.