A last cuddle: baby girl survives brush with death but twin sister has life support turned off

The parents of a little girl who were advised to turn off her life-support machine, just four weeks after heartbreakingly having to switch off her twin sister's, are looking forward to celebrating her first ever Christmas.

Saturday, 3rd December 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 3:40 pm
Ava and Elouise - first and last ever cuddle

Little Ava Lucas, now 11 months old, has fought her way to see Christmas after her and her twin sister, Elouise, were born extremely prematurely at 25 weeks.

On Christmas Day last year, mum Lauren Smith of Walton was rushed into hospital as her waters broke too early, meaning her twin girls were in serious danger.

The babies, who were diagnosed just six weeks earlier with life-threatening twin-twin transfusion syndrome, were born very premature a week later in January.

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Ava gets her first cuddle from her dad at three weeks old

Within a matter of hours Lauren and her partner Graham Lucas were told that the smaller twin, Elouise – who weighed just 400g – was dying. Sadly, at 18 hours old, the couple had to make the hardest decision of their lives and turned off Elouise’s life-support machine.

Lauren and Graham’s heartache continued as, when sister Ava was four-weeks-old, they were advised to turn off her life-support too. Still reeling from the loss of Elouise, her parents refused.

For the first 10 weeks of her life Ava was dependent on a machine to keep her alive, and she underwent numerous lifesaving treatments during her first four months. Needing specialist medical care, Ava was treated at five different hospitals and was often in a critical condition.

Sick Children’s Trust and Indie’s Gift Ambassador Lauren says: “It was the most traumatic time of my life when the girls were born, I didn’t see them for hours and when I did, it was clear they weren’t ready to take on the challenge they needed to face.

Ava at one week old

“My babies were attached to machines and wires which completely covered them – I ran back out of the neonatal intensive care unit crying in fear and shock. It was terrifying.

“I felt it in my heart that worse news was yet to come, and it did. Within hours we were told Elouise was dying and we had to make the hardest decision – a decision no parent should have to make – we had to turn off our baby’s machine.

“We were broken-hearted and inconsolable that one of our precious babies had died but we had to stay strong for Ava and pray she would pull through.

“During those first few weeks her little body was put through so much, it was unbearable to watch. Our heartache continued when Ava was four-weeks-old and we were advised to turn off her machine. We had already lost Elouise and couldn’t lose Ava too.”

Ava now

For the first eight weeks of Ava’s life she was treated in London’s Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital, over 90 minutes away from home in Peterborough.

She was then transferred to specialist hospital The Rosie, in Cambridge, where she was underwent life-saving treatment for three weeks. During this time, Lauren and Graham were supported by The Sick Children’s Trust’s free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation, Chestnut House.

Lauren continues: “A day after arriving at The Rosie Hospital we found out about The Sick Children’s Trust’s Chestnut House. It was a lifeline. Ava was still very poorly, she was wired up to machines which were doing all the work for her tiny body.

“It was very touch and go, so being at Chestnut House which was just minutes from Ava’s incubator made us as close as we could possibly be to our sick baby and meant we could spend every precious moment with her.”

Lauren and Ava - first cuddle at two weeks old

Remarkably, after four months in hospital, Ava was well enough to go home and has continued to amaze her parents and medical team with her progress.

Ava – who never stops smiling – has now been at home for seven months and is looking forward to Santa’s visit on Christmas Day.

Lauren adds: “Ava never stopped fighting – she was put through a lot but never gave up and we are so proud of her for that. This Christmas will be very difficult as even though we are celebrating Ava being alive we will be remembering our beloved Elouise.

“We will lay flowers in our garden for her and think of her all day. We know she will be looking down on Ava as we make the day one to remember.”

The Sick Children’s Trust runs 10 ‘Homes from Homes’ across the country supporting families with seriously ill children in hospital. It costs the charity £30 to support a family for one night, helping them stay close to their child’s hospital bedside.

Chestnut House manager, Abi Abdel-aal, says: “Lauren and Graham were going through the most traumatic time imaginable, grieving Elouise and everyday hoping Ava would survive.

Mum Lauren, dad Graham and Elouise

“When their child’s life hangs in the balance it is vital that parents can stay with their seriously ill baby.

“The Sick Children’s Trust makes this possible by giving families free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation just minutes from the hospital ward, so they can remain close to their loved one.“

For more information on The Sick Children’s Trust, please visit: www.sickchildrenstrust.org.

Ava gets her first cuddle from her dad at three weeks old
Ava at one week old
Ava now
Lauren and Ava - first cuddle at two weeks old
Mum Lauren, dad Graham and Elouise