Neil Greenlees reports
Lost twin boys to be remembered at balloon launch
A LOCAL couple whose identical twin boys died in their mother's
womb earlier this year will release a balloon in memory of their
stillborn sons at a ceremony in the Stormont Estate on Sunday
The emotional event, due to be attended by
scores of parents who have suffered similar devastating losses,
has been organised by the web based organisation 'ourforeverbahies'.
It will take place just seven months after
Karen McCann and Gavin Taggart from Old Colin received the
heartbreaking news their unborn sons Daire and Odhran had
succumbed to the condition 'identical twin syndrome' which
involves an imbalanced flow of blood from one twin to the other.
It is believed to affect as many as one in 1,000 pregnancies.
The couple say the tragedy, which also proved
devastating for their eight year old son Jamie, occurred despite
them being told by the RVH at the 15 week stage of the pregnancy
the babies were not identical.
This was good news as identical twin girls
born to Karen's sister had passed away shortly after birth.
However, the couple's relief proved to be
short lived. As the pregnancy progressed Karen began to suffer
severe discomfort and pain. She had to wear a support belt and
use crutches. At times she could not walk.
She says she telephoned the hospital on
several occasions explaining how she felt and stating she was
pregnant with nonidentical twins but was told she would have to
wait between four and six hours to be seen and the best thing to
do was to take two paracetamol tablets and go to bed. The
situation changed dramatically when she attended the hospital
for her 21 week antenatal check and a doctor asked her if she
was sure her dates were right as she was 'so big'.
Karen was scanned sitting up as she could not
lie down and was immediately admitted because the doctor saw
straight away there was too much fluid round one of the babies.
The next morning a consultant told her both babies were very
ill. Karen couldn't believe what was happening: "My head swam -
what was she talking about? - I'd just seen them on a scan the
day before and they were moving away. To me they looked
perfect," she said. But the nightmare continued. Another scan
confirmed Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome and the couple were
told an operation was necessary which could only be performed at
St. George's Hospital in Tooting.
By this stage Karen was in so much pain she
could barely walk up the steps to the aircraft. Even though they
were in business class she was so big she could not pull down
her seat tray.
A wheelchair was provided at Heathrow but
they had to make their own way through the terminal to the taxi
rank. "We had no idea where we were going and all the while I
kept thinking my babies were at risk from the trauma of flying,"
Karen said. "We finally arrived at St. Georges at 10.30pm and by
this stage I was tired, sore, frightened, anxious, crying lots
and needed help."
Next day a scan confirmed the smaller twin
was very ill. Surgery took place with Karen being given what she
referred to as 'a happy drug which put her into an almost dream
While the operation was proceeding Karen and
Gavin were able to see their babies on a TV screen. "We saw
little bits of their bodies, faces, hands and feet as the light
from the camera searched for the right place to go," she said.
"It was a surreal experience and something I will never erase
from my mind."
Three litres of fluid were removed and they
returned the next morning for another scan. Karen couldn't look
at the screen but she knew when she saw a heartbroken Gavin
break down and cry the smaller twin had not survived.
The other baby required a blood transfusion
which was declared a success.
The journey back to Poleglass proved
traumatic. Once again the couple faced the long taxi ride from
Tooting to Heathrow and Gavin had to push Karen in a wheelchair
from the terminal entrance to the door of the aircraft.
Karen, who was in severe pain, was acutely
aware of the dangers of her waters breaking during the flight.
The couple arrived home late in the evening
and next morning when Karen wakened she knew instinctively her
other baby had also died. They called their GP who sent her to
It took three scans but eventually doctors
were able to confirm both twins had passed away. They then had
to face the trauma of Karen being induced and giving birth
Odhran Kevin, the smaller of the twins, was
born first closely followed by his bigger brother Daire John.
"The boys stayed with us until the next
morning in a little Moses basket and their aunts and uncles and
grandparents came in and said hello and goodbye to their nephews
and grandsons. On Monday March 5 we buried our beautiful sons
with my grandparents, uncle and little cousin. That was the day
my heart broke into pieces," Karen said.
Karen and Gavin have one big question which
they feel must be answered: Why was it necessary for them to
undertake the gruelling journey to London when, they believe,
the same surgery was available just two hours drive from their
home? They have discovered an identical procedure was carried
out in Dublin on twins at 22 weeks in January. Both survived.
The couple now wonder if a less traumatic journey might have
given more chance of a better outcome.
"There are so many questions that will never
be answered. The only one Gavin and I can answer is that we know
Daire didn't want Odhran being on his own and that's why he went
with him" Karen wrote on her website.
www.ourforeverbabies.com had proved a major source of
support since. "Initially, I really had no support at all. I
just sat on my very dark days looking for help," she continued.
"But they reached out the hand of friendship and took me under
their wing. I can remember the first time they invited me to one
of their coffee mornings when I realised they were thinking the
same things as me. It made me realise I was not the only one.
Someone down the street could be in the same situation."
www.ourforeverbabies.com was set up by Jen Kearney and
Eleanor Ellerslie. They describe it as a community of friends
who have come together to support each other through the tough
times and laugh with each other when the good times come.