Holding on to Hamish

Holding on to Hamish

When Hayleigh and Nick Morley nicknamed their unborn twins, they never expected a day would come where they would say goodbye to one. 

“We nicknamed them ‘Lefty’ and ‘Righty’ because while most twins remain close together in the uterus, ours were on opposite sides,” Hayleigh, of Mudgeeraba, said. 

Hayleigh’s pregnancy progressed well until a scan at 20 weeks revealed that one of the twins was 30 per cent smaller than his sibling. 

“Doctors explained to us that there may be an issue with the placenta failing to get enough blood flow through the umbilical cord, but they also said there was a chance the baby may just be naturally smaller,” she said. 

Another scan six weeks later, at 26 weeks gestation, showed the baby had slipped to 40 per cent smaller than his twin

“I went back to my obstetrician and he called Dr Peter Gray at Mater for a consultation,” Hayleigh said. 

“They also discovered that the blood flow through the umbilical cord was intermittent; it should flow both ways continuously, but it was only flowing with each beat of my heart. 

“We were told the baby may die or that I would need an emergency caesarean, which could put our other baby at risk if we delivered early.” 

Hayleigh’s obstetrician advised her to have a follow up scan a week later and told to prepare to be admitted to hospital to undergo constant monitoring for the remainder of her pregnancy. 

But Hayleigh’s baby had plans of his own—with her waters breaking later that week. The couple rushed to their local hospital on the Gold Coast where Hayleigh was transferred to Mater Mothers’ Hospital by ambulance. 

“Nick was pretty calm; he thought it was just normal pregnancy stuff, but I was definitely freaking out thinking ‘this is real, this isn’t a false alarm’, I knew something was different,” Hayleigh said. 

“It was way too soon; I’d only just finished work a few days earlier, my baby shower was booked for the following weekend and the nursery wasn’t finished.” 

Once at Mater, Hayleigh was given medications designed to stop the contractions and prevent infection as well as steroids and magnesium sulphate to help her babies’ lungs and brains develop. 

“Over the two weeks I was in hospital, I had contractions on and off every day,” Hayleigh said. 

Then, at 28 weeks and five days gestation, Hayleigh went into labour—again. 

“Not that I knew I was in labour because we’d had so many false starts; I just thought the pain and contractions would go away like they had previously.”

Nick made it back from the Gold Coast just in time for the delivery and 15 hours after she went into labour, Theo was born. He weighed just 680 grams. 

“We were told that sometimes when babies are around 500 grams, they may not be able to intubate and at the last scan, Theo was about 480 grams, so we were really fearful the doctors wouldn’t be able to help him,” Hayleigh said. 

Thankfully, doctors were able to intubate and after a quick photo by Nick, Theo was rushed to Mater’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 

Eight minutes later Theo’s younger—but bigger— brother Hamish was born weighing 1164 grams. 

“He came out making more noise than his brother did,” Hayleigh recalled. 

“I heard just a little squeak with Theo, but he was waving his arms in the brief moment I saw them both before they were taken to NICU.” 

With both boys on their way to NICU, Hayleigh was taken to theatre where doctors had to manually remove both placentas after they failed to detach during delivery. 

“On the way back from recovery, the nurses wheeled my bed into NICU so I could see both the boys,” she said. 

There was also a welcoming committee waiting in her room. 

“Both sets of our parents were there as well as my grandparents and a couple of my sisters, so they all got to see the boys on the day they were born,” Hayleigh said. 

However it soon became clear that both boys faced an uphill battle to survive. 

“Theo was on a high frequency ventilator which literally shook his body because his lungs were so underdeveloped from the limited blood flow during pregnancy,” Hayleigh said. 

“We were able to touch him, but we didn’t get to hold him for more than three weeks. 

“Hamish also required assistance breathing, but we were able to have kangaroo cuddles about a week after he was born. 

“Hamish definitely gave us some scares; I was there a couple of times when the nurses had to hit the panic button and the whole team came running in with the cart. Then his heart would start again. 

“Just when you think that they’re doing well and heading in the right direction, they’d take two steps back.” 

Unfortunately, Theo didn’t progress as well as his brother. 

“They warned us a number of times that with Theo being so little and his lungs being so poorly developed, he may never come off ventilator which meant he’d never go home,” Hayleigh said. 

“We tried to remain optimistic but it was one of those things that is always in the back of your mind and he was putting up a good fight.”

After three weeks, Theo developed an infection and both lungs collapsed.  

Hayleigh and Nick’s eldest son was on borrowed time. 

“One of the doctors told me it wasn’t a case of whether or not we would lose Theo; it was more a matter of when—it could have been days, weeks or hours,” Hayleigh said. 

A couple of days later, I got a call in the middle of the night to say they couldn’t get his oxygen levels up and that things weren’t looking great.” 

Within hours, the couple were asked to make the heart-wrenching decision to take their son off his ventilator. 

“It’s such a hard decision to make; but we could see that he was in pain and because his oxygen levels were so low for a couple of hours, he had sustained irreparable brain damage,” Hayleigh recalled. 

After 23 days together, Nick and Hayleigh were given the chance to hold their son—just in time to say goodbye. 

“We got to hold both Theo and Hamish at the same time which was a really special moment,” Hayleigh said.

“We were lucky to have that long with Theo; when I was first admitted I was told he may not survive delivery so to get those weeks together was incredible.” 

“Hamish had been moved to the next room in intensive care, so the nurses moved him back so he would be next to his brother and we had a photographer from Heartfelt come in to take some photos and some of our family came in to say goodbye.”

Although the couple’s heart had broken, they had to be strong for Hamish. 

“Knowing that Hamish needed us to both keep going was one of the things that got us through,”Hayleigh said.  

“He was always the more stable one and we didn’t have the whole ‘you may lose him too’ fear that some parents have from the start but it was still a rollercoaster ride.”

On 30 September 2013, after 11 weeks in the Neonatal Critical Care Unit, Hayleigh and Nick were able to take Hamish home. 

Now nine months old, Hamish continues to meet his milestones and has inherited his parents’ stubborn streak. 

“He’s crawling and saying ‘dada’ and he’s a bit of a fussy feeder but he’s healthy and never stops moving. 

“He’s also got a good set of lungs; the neonatal chronic lung disease hasn’t slowed him down,” Hayleigh laughed. 

Hayleigh thanked the staff at Mater Mothers for looking after her sons during their time in NCCU. 

“The staff at Mater Mothers were amazing; they were so supportive and understanding and they always found time to talk. It’s not just a job for them, they care; it’s something they love and it comes through in their work.” 

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