Miracle twins who were given just a 10% chance of survival are getting set to start school this September.
Caitlin and Daniel Darby, four, from Luton, were not expected to make it home when they were born extremely premature at just 23 weeks and six days.
The twins’ prematurity caused multiple life-threatening complications including underdeveloped lungs, heart conditions and bleeds to the brain. For the first 12 weeks, the twins underwent intense treatment at the family’s local hospital – Luton and Dunstable Hospital – where the twins grew strong enough to be discharged. But as their parents Kayleigh and Thomas prepared to take their babies home for the first time in three months, their daughter Caitlin took a turn for the worse, developing the deadly bowel disease necrotising enterocolitis.
Caitlin was rushed over 40 miles away from home to The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge, leaving her twin brother Daniel behind. However within 24 hours, Kayleigh and Thomas received a call to say that Daniel too was being transferred to the specialist hospital for the same condition. As the twins fought for their lives, their parents were never more than a few minutes from their hospital bedside as they were given free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation by The Sick Children’s Trust at the charity’s Chestnut House. Mum Kayleigh, 31, says:
“We were told there was a very small chance that one of them might survive, let alone both of them. And if they did survive they would have multiple health issues. We honestly thought our babies weren’t going to make it. We had literally nothing back at the house for the twins, as we never dared to believe the day would come when we would bring them home.
“When the twins took a turn for the worse and had to be transferred miles away from home, I was petrified. But when I arrived at The Rosie Hospital I was soon introduced to Alan Booth, from The Sick Children’s Trust. Alan ran a ‘Home from Home’ which was just below where Caitlin and Daniel were in the neonatal intensive care unit, called Chestnut House. He took me down to Chestnut House and made me a cup of tea and told me to cry if I needed to. Alan showed me around the ‘Home from Home’ and I immediately felt safe. As we walked around he asked me about the twins, and I realised that because everything had happened so quickly I had nothing with me. No clothes, no toothbrush – nothing. But Alan reassured me everything would be fine and told me where the nearest shopping centre and supermarkets were. I could not have asked for anyone better to look after me on that awful day and I was so grateful to The Sick Children’s Trust for its support.”
Caitlin and Daniel spent their first 19 weeks of life in hospital before being allowed home. Now, at four years old they are living life to the full and can’t wait to start school. Kayleigh adds:
“They are both very excited about starting school, and have really enjoyed their visits – I have to wrestle them out of their school uniforms as they love them so much!
“It's a very emotional time preparing to wave them off at the school gates. We didn't believe we'd ever be able to bring them home, and now four years later we're sending them off to school with no major issues. I'm so proud of the little people they've turned into, and we're all excited about this next chapter in their lives. I imagine myself and Thomas will be shedding a few tears on their first day, but they'll also be tears of happiness and pride.”
The Sick Children’s Trust runs ten free ‘Homes from Home’ across the country supporting families with seriously ill children in hospital. Alan Booth, who now manages the charity’s Stevenson House in London, says:
“Caitlin and Daniel have defied the odds and are thriving – it’s so lovely to see pictures of them in their school uniform and see how much they’ve grown. We wish them the very best at school and hope they enjoy it!”