When expectant mum Jess went into premature labour at just 24 weeks pregnant, she feared she would never get to hear the laughter or see the smiles of her twin daughters.
As an ambulance raced Jess from Toowoomba to Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Brisbane, paramedics feared they may have to deliver the twins in transit.
"I was told that if the babies were born in Toowoomba, they would die,” Jess said.
“Because my labour with our firstborn daughter, Brooke, was so fast, part of me thought we wouldn't make it. There was lights and sirens the whole way; it was pretty scary, especially as I knew my husband Steven was trying to follow us.”
Once at Mater, obstetrician Dr Rod Allen immediately began trying to boost the twins' development and slow Jess’ labour. It worked—but not for long.
Bailey and Bella were born by emergency caesarean the following day, weighing 670 grams and 710 grams respectively.
The twins were rushed to Mater's Neonatal Critical Care Unit (NCCU).
"I hadn't really registered what was happening or how serious it was; I just thought they were small babies and people have small babies all the time," Jess said.
Within a few days, the reality of the uphill battle faced by both her daughters hit Jess.
"Suddenly I realised there were so many things that could go wrong.”
"I was told that if the babies were born in Toowoomba, they would die ... there was lights and sirens the whole way; it was pretty scary."
At just one week old, Bella—now weighing just 600 grams— required emergency surgery for a perforated bowel. She was given only a 50 per cent chance of survival.
Bella survived but still needed more than 20 blood transfusions. She suffered a heart murmur and spent almost nine weeks on a ventilator.
Despite her sister’s setbacks, after 99 days in hospital, Jess and Steven were given the heart-warming news that they were able to take their eldest twin Bailey home.
But their joy was short lived—moments before staff surprised Jess and Steven with a cake to celebrate Bella’s first 100 days, their youngest daughter stopped breathing.
"In that moment we thought we may not end up with both girls at home; Bailey was doing so well yet Bella seemed to have a bad day every second day,” Jess said.
But Bella was a fighter.
On 2 September 2014, 127 days after Bella and Bailey were born, Steven and Jess walked out of Mater’s NCCU for the last time—and took both their daughters home.
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Bailey and Bella's story