A mother whose daughter was born without a heartbeat is raising awareness on World Prematurity Day on the one-year anniversary of her baby being discharged from hospital.
Helen Hudson, 40, a solutions and partnership lead for a social enterprise, was 20 weeks pregnant when one of her twin babies, Beatrice, passed away in the womb, but she carried both siblings a further eight weeks before undergoing an emergency caesarean.
After being born without a heartbeat, baby Emmeline faced many health complications in the first few months of her life due to being premature, but Helen says the family are now making up for lost time.
Emmeline, who finally returned home from hospital on World Prematurity Day 2021, is now thriving and Helen is looking forward to enjoying Christmas as a family.
Helen, who lives in Huddersfield with her husband, Chris, 37, a deputy head teacher, and their two children, Ted, four, and Emmeline, 18 months, said: “Losing Beatrice and then going through months of Emmeline being critically ill was a very traumatic time for us as a family.
“We couldn’t do all of the things we wanted to do in the first year of Emmeline’s life, so we’re making those memories now.”
Helen was first alerted that something could be wrong with her pregnancy at her 12-week scan.
She said: “Before that, everything seemed fine, but at the 12-week scan I was told I had abnormal levels of fluids and that the twins had a 15% chance of having a normal outcome.
“I hadn’t known before that point that I was even carrying twins so it was all a shock. I was also there alone due to Covid restrictions, so it was very difficult hearing that information by myself.”
I’m incredibly grateful to The Sick Children’s Trust and I want to thank them for everything they did for my family.
Helen says that appointment marked the beginning of a difficult journey.
She said: “I was going in for check-ups regularly and, at 19 weeks, I developed a condition called twin to twin transfusion syndrome.”
Twin to twin transfusion syndrome is a prenatal condition in which twins share unequal amounts of the placenta’s blood supply, resulting in the two foetuses growing at different rates.
Helen continued: “Both twins were very poorly and Emmeline was the more poorly one at that point, she was even described as ‘pre-terminal’.”
Helen was offered laser surgery which would split the placenta in two, stopping the uneven blood flow between the babies.
She said: “I was told the procedure had a 90% success rate for the babies but was more dangerous for me.”
She added: “I knew I was going to do anything I could to save them both, so I decided to go ahead with the procedure.”
The surgery was a success, but the twins were still in critical danger.
Helen said: “Doctors were worried that Emmeline wouldn’t make it through the night after the surgery, but she did.”
She added: “A few days later though, I had a wellbeing scan, and it revealed that Beatrice had taken a turn for the worse.”
With no other options, doctors had heart-breaking news.
Helen said: “She was already far too poorly and further intervention would risk Emmeline’s life too.”
She added: “We ultimately had to face that fact that there was nothing else we could do to save Beatrice.”
Beatrice passed away a week later.
Helen said: “Because they already had separate placentas due to the surgery, Beatrice’s death didn’t affect Emmeline’s progress.”
She added: “So, I continued to carry both twins for a further eight weeks.”
But Helen admits that continuing to carry Beatrice took an emotional toll on her.
She said: “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I haven’t processed it yet either because of everything else that came after Emmeline’s birth.”
In May 2021, Helen’s waters broke unexpectedly and she was rushed to Calderdale Royal Infirmary in Halifax where she delivered her twins through emergency caesarean.
She said: “Emmeline was born without a heartbeat. They whisked her away immediately to work on her.”
It was not until 18 hours after the surgery that Helen was finally able to meet their daughter.
Helen said: “She was wheeled into my room in an incubator as she was about to be transported to a different hospital with specialist care.
“I put my hand in to hold her arm, it was only for a few moments before she needed to leave.
“I got to meet Beatrice too, she was wrapped in a blanket and lowered into my arms. It was incredibly difficult and emotional.”
Due to her underdeveloped lungs and other complications, Emmeline stayed in intensive care for 75 days, until she was finally discharged.
Helen said: “She came home in mid-July, on her namesake, suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst’s birthday.
“She was able to meet her brother for the first time which was very special, he loves her to pieces.”
She added: “We brought her home and the first three months after that went smoothly.”
But in October 2021, Ted came down with a bad cold, which Emmeline caught.
Helen said: “It was the start of a nightmare.”
She added: “She developed bronchiolitis and became critically ill. I called an ambulance and we were taken to A&E.
“She started to deteriorate, her system was shutting down while we were in the resuscitation room, so she had to be worked on in front of me and intubated.
“It’s the most traumatic thing I’ve ever experienced. My husband and I were asked to go into another room and it was another six hours before they stabilised her.”
With limited beds available, Emmeline was taken to Newcastle where she was admitted into intensive care.
Helen said: “I had no idea where I was going to stay, at first I thought I would have to pay for a hotel.
“The Sick Children’s Trust were a lifeline when I really needed them. They just removed all the extra stress and worry of where I was going to stay so I could see Emmeline as much as possible.”
She added: “When you have a child that’s very ill, your own basic needs just go out the window, but The Sick Children’s Trust handled all of those things for me.”
Back on the mend, Emmeline was finally able to go home on November 17, 2021, which is World Prematurity Day.
Helen said: “This World Prematurity Day is very special to us. It marks a year since Emmeline came home.”
She added: “I’m incredibly grateful to The Sick Children’s Trust and I want to thank them for everything they did for my family.
“This day feels like its own important milestone, one year of having her home with us.”
And Helen says she plans to make up for lost time over the next few weeks.
She said: “Emmeline had not long been home when she had her first Christmas. It was a lovely, quiet family day where we just kept to ourselves.
“This year, I’ll be able to fully enjoy the day without the worry in the back of my mind that she’s going to get poorly again.
“It’s tempting to stay home, where I know she’s safe, but Emmeline is such a force and she wants to be out in the world.”
She added: “I’ve recently been gaining more confidence to take her places. She’s been to museums, parks, and on Bonfire Night we took her to see fireworks.
“Sharing in these experiences with her is incredible, she really deserves it after the year she’s had.”