Sometimes Miracles Come in Pairs
Yannis and Katerina were first alerted that something was amiss when ultrasound scans revealed that Katerina’s unborn twins were suffering from Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). This is a condition where the twins share one placenta but receive unequal nutrition from it, hence one baby grows bigger than the other.
Due to the rapid evolution of the condition, Katerina was whisked from her home in western Greece to King’s College Hospital, London, some 1,800 miles, for a procedure undertaken by Professor Nicolaides to correct the imbalance immediately, an essential procedure as the condition sadly has a 60% -100% mortality rate in severe cases.
Despite the successful outcome to this keyhole surgery, undertaken while Katerina was fully conscious (with an audience of 15 other medical colleagues), the procedure unfortunately resulted in Katerina giving birth to the twins prematurely just four days later. The girls, Joanna and Marina, were born just after midnight, on the 22 April 2013 at just 25 weeks; weighting in at 455gms (1lb) and 644gms (1lb 6.7oz) respectively.
Yannis joined the Camberwell House the same day the girls were born with mum, Katerina, following shortly afterwards, at the end of April 2013. The original plan was for the family to remain there until both girls reached full term and were well enough to be discharged. But as is so often the case, plans adapt to life events.
Shortly after birth it was discovered that Joanna needed surgery to close a heart vessel, which normally closes at birth (PDA). However luck was on her side because at the last minute, they found that the vessel had closed by itself, which was a wonderful gift especially as it was going to be a long, hard journey before Joanna was finally to overcome her early breathing difficulties.
Marina, on the other hand, although doing much better initially, sadly developed NEC (a disease of the bowels often associated with prematurity). Yannis and Katerina were advised that her survival chances were slim; but despite the low odds she did recover and made steady progress during the next five months.
After spending 172 days on the neonatal ward, the moment finally arrived when Marina was declared well enough to be discharged from hospital to take up full time residence at the Camberwell House with her mum and dad whilst Joanna continued to grow in weight and health on the ward.
Just prior to Marina’s discharge, Yannis and Katerina busily prepared for her arrival by shopping for all the essential bits that are needed before bringing a baby home, replacing the many items that had been left behind in Greece due to their hasty departure. Marina’s arrival at the Ronald McDonald House was, for the delightful and committed parents, just like Christmas! Their obvious joy and pride at having one of their new daughters ‘home’ was a special and wonderful moment that the Camberwell team shared with them.
Marina initially joined her parents on their daily journey up to the Neonatal ward to visit her sister, Joanna, and even spent some brief moments lying next to her. However, to lessen the chance of cross infection, the daily trips to the ward were discontinued after a short while meaning that both parents were on full-time baby care permanently, taxing their strength but not their determination to be the best, most devoted parents they could be.
As the weeks passed by it started to become obvious that Joanna’s progress was going to take time, but Christmas was on the horizon which it helped the family deal with the slow but steady progress Joanna was making. Both Yannis and Katerina got into the Christmas spirit with some fabulous head decoration and some very cute outfits for the girls! They joined a number of other families also staying in the House over Christmas and the Papadopoulos’s joined the ranks of Camberwell’s ‘long-term families’.
As the weeks passed and the new year began, the family were told that it was going to be many months before Joanna would be well enough to be discharged. It was at this point that Yannis’s mother from Greece was called in to help; a lovely lady who was a huge help to the parents.
It was shortly after her arrival that the family realised that they really needed to find another temporary home in London, particularly as they had previously been told by the hospital that they would need to stay in the UK, close to King’s College hospital for at least four months after both girls were discharged whilst they waited for Joanna to grow in strength. So at the end of January 2014, a new home had been found for the family and the Camberwell team said their goodbyes to a truly wonderful family who had stayed for a total of 280 days.
It took another four months until Joanna was finally well enough to be discharged and able to join her sister and the family in their temporary London home, after a total of 13 months at King’s.
The family stayed on for another four months in London for the girls' follow-up but finally both girls were deemed well enough to cope with the flight back home to Greece at the end of September 2014, after spending a total of 18 months in the UK.
These two tiny, fragile bundles of joy defied the odds and challenges of such a premature birth and the complication it brought, to grow into delightful little girls which this last photo is testimony to.