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Youngest twins to be treated at neonatal care unit thriving at home one year on from leaving

PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:41 03 April 2018

Josie Wilson with her 16-month-old twins Esme, left, and Iris, who have only been home a year after spending 113 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ICU.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Josie Wilson with her 16-month-old twins Esme, left, and Iris, who have only been home a year after spending 113 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ICU. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Easter is a time for new life - and that is what one Norwich family is celebrating as they mark one year home from intensive care for a set of “determined” twins.

Iris and Esme Wilson at one month old in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie WilsonIris and Esme Wilson at one month old in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie Wilson

Iris and Esme Wilson were born more than four months early on December 16, 2016 and became the earliest born twins treated on the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where they spent 113 days.

Their mother Josie Wilson noticed something was wrong in the early hours of December 16, and called her mother Gail Newman around 2am, who drove her to hospital.

Ms Wilson, 38, said: “When I got there they told me I was 5cm dilated and was in labour. It was all a bit of a blur from then.”

Ms Wilson delivered the twins naturally. Iris arrived first, at 6.27am, she weighed 660g.

Iris and Esme Wilson in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie WilsonIris and Esme Wilson in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie Wilson

Some 15 minutes later Esme arrived. She weighed just 630g, the equivalent of an average iceberg lettuce.

Ms Wilson was allowed one quick cuddle with the girls before they were whisked off to intensive care and she did not see them until 7pm that evening.

Despite how early they arrived, the girls avoided stomach problems, which are common in preterm babies. But Iris did have to undergo laser eye surgery and both were born with heart murmurs.

However, they slowly moved through each stage of the NICU as they got stronger and stronger.

Iris and Esme Wilson at one month old in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie WilsonIris and Esme Wilson at one month old in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie Wilson

It was not an easy journey for the family, however, as Ms Wilson said it felt like at times they were taking two steps forward and one step back.

There were also two deaths while on NICU, one of which was a twin who also had a sister, which brought home the severity.

But the twins pulled through, and Ms Wilson put this down in part to her being able to express her own milk which the girls took through a tube, as well as getting skin to skin contact as soon as possible.

She said: “I wanted to get that bond, the connection, and they loved being cuddled. When Iris looked at me for the first time she just looked straight into me.”

Iris and Esme Wilson at one month old in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie WilsonIris and Esme Wilson at one month old in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie Wilson

The twins were finally ready to leave NICU on April 7 last year - but it was not without it’s own set of problems.

Ms Wilson said: “The day we came home Iris had had a few apneas (suspension of breathing). We got sent home but then I realised she was losing colour, we’d been home three minutes and I called an ambulance, so we went back to the NICU - we were back in half an hour from when we left.”

But now at nearly 16 months old, they are just like any other babies.

Ms Wilson said: “I just feel absolutely privileged to be a mum and that they are here, I’m amazed at what they do or come out with.”

Iris and Esme Wilson at one month old in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie WilsonIris and Esme Wilson at one month old in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie Wilson

She added: “Acting on your maternal instincts is difficult on NICU due to the specialist care your baby requires. Not being able to hold them and give them a cuddle whenever you like is tough so there are a range of techniques used on the unit to ensure that you can still build a strong bond with your baby.

“But the team are wonderful at supporting you to do this and enabling you to have as much interaction with your little one as possible. After spending more than 100 days on NICU, they’ve become like an extended family to us.”

The family have also been attending the NICU nurture group, a group made up of families who have received care in NICU and get together regularly to provide support and share experiences. The group also holds classes including baby massage and physiotherapy designed to benefit babies born prematurely.

Ms Wilson said: “Just knowing that there are other people out there who have shared similar experiences really makes a difference. Everyone understands the challenges you’ve had to overcome and that really bonds you together and helps you to empathise.”

Iris and Esme Wilson at one month old in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie WilsonIris and Esme Wilson at one month old in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). Photo: Josie Wilson

“We’ve taken this journey one step at a time. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, with good days and not so good days, but each individual milestone we’ve got to has been even more magnified because it’s been so difficult to get there.

“NICU can be a scary prospect for any prospective parent and it’s not necessarily only premature babies who need to utilise these specialist services. If hearing our story and knowing a little more bit about NICU makes it even slightly less daunting for another family, then that would be a fantastic thing.”

Dr Priya Muthukumar, NNUH consultant neonatologist and lead consultant looking after Iris and Esme, added: “We’re delighted that since leaving our unit last Easter, Esme and Iris are continuing to thrive. When babies are born early, particularly as early as 23 or 24 weeks, it can be a challenging journey and our staff do everything they can to support parents and families throughout this time.

“To see how the twins are progressing is wonderful and very rewarding for all the team who have been involved in their care.”

Esme and Iris Wilson ready to go home from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in 2017. Photo: Josie WilsonEsme and Iris Wilson ready to go home from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in 2017. Photo: Josie Wilson

Josie Wilson with her one of her 16-month-old twins Esme, who have only been home a year after spending 113 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ICU.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJosie Wilson with her one of her 16-month-old twins Esme, who have only been home a year after spending 113 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ICU. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Josie Wilson with her one of her 16-month-old twins Iris, who have only been home a year after spending 113 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ICU.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJosie Wilson with her one of her 16-month-old twins Iris, who have only been home a year after spending 113 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ICU. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Josie Wilson with her 16-month-old twins Esme, left, and Iris, who have only been home a year after spending 113 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ICU.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJosie Wilson with her 16-month-old twins Esme, left, and Iris, who have only been home a year after spending 113 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ICU. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Josie Wilson with her 16-month-old twins Esme, left, and Iris, who have only been home a year after spending 113 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ICU.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJosie Wilson with her 16-month-old twins Esme, left, and Iris, who have only been home a year after spending 113 days in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ICU. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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