Lois Rogers

Journalist and Communicator

I had to let my baby die in the womb in order to save twin

Health

Former Page 3 model was told she had to let one of her twins die in the womb… or risk losing them both

IT was a decision no expectant mum would ever wish to make.

Just weeks after the elation of finding out she was having twins, Kym Graham  was told she would have to let one of them die — or risk losing both to a rare condition.

In an exclusive interview, the former Page 3 model told The Sun on Sunday: “It has been a terrible time. There were whole days during the pregnancy when I did nothing but sit and cry.

“I felt like the happiest woman in the world when I found out I was pregnant with twins.

“To hear that one of them could not make it was a crushing blow I hope no mother ever has to go through again.”

Kym’s heartbreak followed the sheer joy of discovering she was carrying the babies she had always longed for.

The 24-year-old, from Newcastle, had discussed starting a family with boyfriend Dean Cadogan, 26, and the happy couple were delighted to discover it was finally happening.

She said: “I found out I was pregnant last April and it was good news — we really wanted a baby. I had an early scan at five or six weeks and found out I was having twins.

“I was so excited but because they were identical it was classed as a high-risk pregnancy, so I had to be scanned every two weeks.

“At 12 weeks a routine scan revealed one baby had an extra nuchal fold — extra skin on the back of the neck — which usually means some kind of abnormality but the other one was normal.”

Because of the nuchal fold, Kym had to have an amniocentesis test at 16 weeks, in which a needle is inserted into the womb to take a sample of the fluid surrounding the babies. The fluid is then checked for abnormalities.

Kym said: “We had two weeks of worry after that while they tested the fluid for every chromosomal abnormality they could and ruled them all out.

“Then we had to wait another two weeks for the results of complete genetic tests on me and Dean. They were normal.”

However, at Kym’s 21-week scan, she was told one of her babies — which she had named Willow and Sophia — was not moving.

Kym recalled: “There was something wrong. I was referred for a specialist scan at the fetal medicine unit at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary the next day.

“Every minute of not knowing if she was OK was agony.

“It was Sophia. I could see her head and body were fine but her legs and arms were tucked right into her chest.”

Sophia was suffering from an “unusually severe case” of arthrogryposis, a condition which stopped her muscles and tendons developing normally and meant she had no chance of survival.

Kim explained that Sophia’s muscles were “completely malformed and she wouldn’t be able to breathe at birth — every single bit of her body was affected”.

Willow was also in danger, owing to the additional problem of twin-to-twin transfusion, meaning they were sharing the same blood supply.

Kym described her ordeal as “a blur” but recalled being taken into a room with her mum Sandra, 53, and Dean, and being faced with the cruelest of ultimatums. She explained: “They said I would have to go to London where doctors knew how to do this cord occlusion to cut off the blood supply to Sophia.

“It was very dangerous and there was a risk to Willow. Her heart could also stop, she could lose a limb or be stillborn.

“I had to make the choice, though I had no choice.

“If I decided not to try to save Willow, I was risking Sophia affecting Willow and them both dying, or giving birth to a very sick baby who wouldn’t survive.”

In late July, less than a week after finding out about Sophia’s killer condition, Kym and Dean, a warehouse worker, were on the train to University College Hospital London to try to save Willow.

Kym recalled: “They had to make several holes in my belly to get the instruments in.

“I just turned my face away from the ultrasound screen while they destroyed the umbilical cord.

“Sophia’s heart stopped almost immediately but they needed to do another scan to check she was gone and that Willow was still all right.

“Then I had to lie there for an hour wondering if Willow was alive before they could do another scan to check her heartbeat before they let me go.

“We went home the same day but they were still worried Willow might not be OK. They had to check her heart again with another scan the next day, and they went on checking every week.

“I couldn’t stand it. The stress was huge. I just wanted the pregnancy to end. I asked them to induce the birth at 38 weeks.”

In November, Kym had a cervical sweep, a procedure in which a midwife or doctor “sweeps” their fingers around the cervix to kick-start labour.

The combined grief and joy of the twins’ birth came 12 hours later.

After Willow was born at a bouncing 6lb 12oz, Sophia’s body — weighing less than a packet of butter — emerged 12 minutes later.

She was baptised by the hospital chaplain and placed in a small white coffin ready for her funeral ten days later.

Kym said: “I didn’t look at her when she was born — they said she wasn’t in a fit state to look at.

“I didn’t go to the baptism or see her at all apart from one scan, when she was perfect, and I said a final goodbye to her.

“I didn’t have to register both their births but I wanted to so I got Sophia’s birth certificate and then her death certificate two minutes later.

“We had her funeral on December 1, 2016. We had her cremated and I have got her ashes in a little urn.

“I’m going to keep her at home with us.”

A small group of mourners including Kym, Dean, Sandra and four other close relations were at the crematorium to say their last goodbyes. Kym says she has created a memory box of : Sophia to share with Willow when she is older.

She said: “The box has two scans of Sophia from the pregnancy, her identity wristbands from the hospital, as well as a hat and some booties my mum knitted for her when I was pregnant.

“I’m going to light a candle next to her memory box every year on her birthday.

“I have mixed emotions now because Willow is such a blessing. Willow being here takes away the pain but I will never forget Sophia.

“To me Willow is a little miracle. It is amazing that she has survived but she will always know she also had a sister.”

‘It’s never an easy choice’

STEPHEN STURGISS, the fetal medicine specialist at Newcastle RVI who oversaw Willow’s perilous route into the world, confirmed that Sophia could have died – and killed her sister.

STURG Newcast He said: “If you’re in a situation where it looks as if one twin might die in the womb, you have to give the parents the chance to make a decision – but it’s never easy.”

Arthrogryposis affects one in 3,000 pregnancies, leading to 260 affected births a year.

Most children survive with different levels of disability.

Charlie Zivanovic, from the Arthrogryposis Group charity, said the exact causes are unknown but it is not down to genetics.

She said: “It is not unusual for the condition to affect one of a pair of twins. It’s thought to be due to a lack of space in the womb.

“We do hear of people being told they will have to terminate a twin pregnancy altogether but this case is very unusual. I feel very sorry for this poor mum.”

Written by Lois Rogers