Beth and Rachael Nichol’s Story
In May 1995 my husband Bruce and I were delighted to discover that we were expecting our first baby due on or around 6 January 1996. More surprises were in store when in August 1995 at my first scan it was revealed that I was expecting twins!!! My pregnancy continued with no complications until at a routine appointment at the RVI in October 1995 I was found to have early signs of Pre-eclampsia. I was admitted to hospital immediately and a few days later the doctors decided to induce me. On 29 October 1995, Beth Charlotte Nichol (2lbs 15 oz) and Rachael Catherine Nichol (3lbs 3oz) were born 10 weeks early by caesarean section. They were immediately whisked away to Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) where they stayed for the next 7 and half weeks.
Initially, the girls were admitted to the “Red” Area (high dependency part). They were in incubators attached to various wires and tubes to monitor and feed them. Rachael needed to be ventilated so was on a ventilator for the first few days of her life and both girls needed help with jaundice. The staff on SCBU were very supportive and demonstrated to us how we could do the girls “daily cares” etc through the side doors on the incubators. They explained what all the equipment was for and how the various machines worked. Unfortunately it was found that the girls were suffering from septicaemia and needed a blood transfusion. We were allowed to watch as this was set up and the transformation in the girl’s appearance as this took place was amazing; they gained so much colour!
After a couple of weeks they were moved to the “Green” area which was much less daunting. They were allowed out of the incubators and put into cots with apnoea alarms attached to their bodies which I really relied on and didn’t want to remove even when they were no longer needed!
Everything was more relaxed here not as much equipment or alarms sounding and we felt more in control of our own babies here. As a leaving date approached we were allowed to stay in a room available to parents near the SCBU where we could take the girls along to at night with the back up security that the nurses etc were just along the corridor should we need them (which occasionally we did!). This experience was invaluable and prepared us for when they would leave. Just before Christmas 1995 we were allowed to take the girls home. Whilst delighted at this we knew we were going to miss all the staff who had become friends to us.
Beth and Rachael continued to put weight on etc. and often people couldn’t believe that they had been premature. Rachael needed a nebuliser for the first 2 years to help her breathing but by the age of two this was no longer required. When they were born I’d asked a doctor what would be the implications of them being born prematurely. He said that they may be prone to chest infections etc and may not be able to run very fast. Luckily, other than the usual childhood ailments the girls have never ailed a thing. They are now healthy 13 year olds doing very well at High School and are extremely fit having competed in regional events such as Northumberland Schools Cross Country Championships, North East England Schools Trampoline competition and being Runners up in the North Tyneside Schools Tennis Doubles Event. They are both on the Gifted and Talented list for Physical Education!
To anyone going through similar circumstances my advice would be to always have hope, be involved at the hospital as much as you can and listen to the advice the SCBU staff will no doubt give you. It is not an easy time but hopefully everything will work out so be as strong as you can be.
Pam and Bruce chose to fundraise for Tiny Lives
“We are forever grateful to the Special Care Baby Unit and to all the staff and equipment which enabled Beth and Rachael to recover from their very early arrival. Of course we have had our worries but without SCBU things could have been so different. We are very keen supporters of Tiny Lives and will continue to be. We are also delighted that the girl’s school have chosen Tiny Lives as their nominated charity and raised funds through various events such as TV Quiz nights, Oliver Production etc.”