Mum reveals anguish as one of her twin sons dies at birth while the other survives

Kate Sharp's boy, Nate, was premature and spent the first six weeks of his life in hospital so finally having him home was a dream come true.

But Kate, 33, from from Wallasey, Wirral, still felt a grief that "ripped her heart in two".

Because, devastatingly, Nate's brother, Dylan, died aged just 16 hours old.

Kate, recounting her grief, said: "We had bought two of everything and I had to choose which car seat to use when we left the hospital."

She continued: "We were so in love with Nate but that's when it hit me – I was only taking one of my sons home."

Kate told how she cuddled Dylan in her arms as he took his final breaths at Liverpool Women's Hospital on March 20 2017, weighing a tiny 3lb 1oz.

"It was at 6am when the doctor said they'd tried everything," Kate said.

"We just kind of knew and trusted the professionals. We desperately didn't want Dylan in pain.

"They gave him some morphine and took him off his life support so we could move into a family room.

"We brought Nate to meet him, talked to him, kissed him and held him. We had three hours and then he let go in my arms."

Kate and partner Andy Green, 27, who has nine-year-old son Ethan from a previous relationship, welcomed their first child together, Finley, in August 2015 after a healthy, normal pregnancy.

And just after Finley's first birthday, they discovered Kate was expecting again.

But at nine weeks pregnant, Kate had stomach aches was rushed to Liverpool Women's for an emergency scan.

"Our hearts sank as we thought the pain was a miscarriage," Kate said. "But to our surprise the scan showed we were having twins.

"We were dead excited and started looking for twin stuff. Both were absolutely fine with their hearts beating."

Kate said the maternity unit was fantastic and kept a close eye on her growing bump with regular midwife appointments and scans.

But at 20 weeks, Kate discovered there was something wrong with Dylan's heart.

Then known only as 'twin two', her unborn boy was diagnosed with Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA) – also known as 'blue-baby syndrome' – a congenital heart condition where the major arteries are the wrong way round.

What is transposition of the great arteries?

Transposition of the great arteries is a condition where that the two main blood vessels leaving the heart, the pulmonary artery (which takes blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen) and the aorta (which takes blood from the heart to the body) are swapped over (switched). 

The pulmonary artery is joined to the left pumping chamber (ventricle) and the aorta to the right pumping chamber (ventricle).

This means that blood flows to the lungs and picks up oxygen but is then pumped back to the lungs instead of travelling around the body. Blood flowing round the body is unable to reach the lungs to pick up oxygen and continues circulating.

Transposition of the great arteries is a form of congenital heart disease – a term used to describe a problem with the heart’s structure and function due to abnormal development before birth.

The condition requires doctors to carry out complex open heart surgery when the patient is just days or weeks old.

"I felt sick when I found out but a specialist told us TGA is the second most common heart problem," Kate said. "He said the baby would need open heart surgery during his first six weeks of life. I was distraught at first but we left the hospital feeling quite positive – everything was going to be okay."

Kate said she prepared herself "mentally and emotionally" for her son to be transferred to Alder Hey Children's Hospital for surgery as soon as he was born.

The couple booked in for a C-section at 38 weeks and began to rebuild their birthing plan. While Kate recovered with twin one at Liverpool Women's, Andy would travel the four miles to Alder Hey.

"We had everything ready, even two labour bags – one to go with each baby," Kate said. "We knew it was going to be hard but I felt fine and they were growing well."

But the scheduled C-section did not happen and Kate was instead rushed into hospital with a major bleed at 30 weeks and four days. Two days later, the twins were born by emergency C-section.

"I was so scared," Kate said. "I asked Andy to distract me and then suddenly Nate let out a tiny little squeak. Someone said he was fine and then Dylan came out with a massive cry. It was great – it's exactly what you want to hear. Andy immediately went over to them and I was stitched up."

But the couple's joy lasted only minutes when the couple learnt twin two – Dylan – was too small for surgery.

"Alder Hey wouldn't take him," Kate explained. "I will remember everything about the moment I found out forever.

"The doctor came in and I can still see and hear his mannerisms, words and tone of voice. He was so kind and I don't even know his name.

"He had bad news – Alder Hey wouldn't take twin two because things weren't looking good for him."

Kate and Andy were taken to see Nate first. Covered in tubes, he seemed fragile and helpless. But Dylan looked worse.

"He was so poorly," Kate said. "Andy couldn't speak through his tears. I couldn't cry so I just listened to the doctor.

"We had massive faith in the hospital who said they were going to do everything they could to keep him alive."

Despite the best efforts of Liverpool Women's neonatal unit, Dylan died just hours later, on March 20.

Kate said: "We didn't want him kept alive just for our sake, so we let him go. He looked so nice – covered in teddies."

For the next 16 days, Dylan was bathed, cuddled, talked to and photographed by a team of people Kate has hailed her "life support".

Kate said: "There was this one moment I'll never forget, when I looked into the room Dylan was resting in, and saw a midwife with him in her arms.

"She was talking to him and carrying him around with her – treating him with such kindness even though he had gone."

Kate said their photographer, Mark, from charity Remember My Baby, was "incredible".

"He talked to Dylan like he was alive," Kate said. "He touched him and said 'you alright, mate?' and said how beautiful our son is.

"If it hadn't have been for Mark, I would never have those pictures."

A few days after Dylan died, The Honeysuckle Team, Liverpool Women's bereavement service, gave Kate a memory box.

Inside were all his tubes and anything he had touched, including the blanket he was lying on in his incubator, "still with his smell on".

Kate said: "There were also lots of poems, cards, a lock of his hair, a balloon to send to the sky, a candle, his first tiny nappy and his Vaseline. There was also a keyring and a star necklace. It was so touching.

"A few days later I was given another gift – photographs of Dylan our midwife had taken without our knowing, holding the necklace and the keyring. It was a wonderful surprise."

Kate said she often looks through Dylan's memory box with a sense of pride of her beautiful son and how far she has come.

Now she wants people to remember her boy. "I want to talk about baby loss and help other people who might find themselves where I am," she said.

"The support from the hospital has continued to be incredible but it was when Nate came home that it really hit me.

"We went to get in the car and I didn't know which car seat to use.

"The neighbours all knew we were having twins but suddenly there was only one.

"I constantly had to tell people, over and over again, what had happened, and nobody really knew what to do.

"At first, nobody sent a congratulations card and some of our distant family didn't even text back.
"My advice to anyone is say something – something is better than nothing."

Little Nate has suffered with viral meningitis and four chest infections since he came home, but he is growing stronger every day.

Kate said: "I want to raise awareness about baby loss, particularly for mums who are trying to care for a newborn while they're grieving.

"It's the hardest thing in the world and I couldn't have got through it without the amazing support I received."

A heartbroken mum who delivered a stillborn baby released poignant photographs of him – and told how it has helped her heal.

Meanwhile, one woman told how distressing it was to deliver her child, knowing he had died in her womb.

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