When I went into labour early, I thought my premature twins were in safe hands…
By Chanell Miller, 31, from St. Leonard’s on Sea, East Sussex
The tears rolled down my cheeks as my eyes traced the outline of their impossibly tiny faces.
‘Well you’re definitely having twins,’ the sonographer smiled. ‘Congratulations!’
‘Are they boys or are they girls?’ I asked eagerly, secretly praying for a girl. ‘I’d really love to know!’
She moved the ultrasound device over my swollen belly. ‘You’re having a boy and a girl,’ she said.
I clasped my hands over my mouth in disbelief.
I already had three little boys Ty’rell, now 13, Shaun, 10, and La’kye, 3, and I was desperate to add a little girl to our growing family.
My sons were my world, but I pictured myself enjoying shopping sprees and girly days with a daughter.
Despite carrying two little lives, I felt like I was walking on air as I left the hospital. I rubbed my tummy in delight.
I can’t wait to introduce you both to your brothers.
However 28 weeks into my pregnancy, in May 2012, I began to experience my first contractions.
I was distraught at the thought of an early birth – my babies weren’t ready.
I was blue-lighted to Newham University Hospital where medics rushed me to the delivery room.
With my little boy breeching and my little girl facing backwards, there was no time to waste. My babies
were in serious trouble.
I was prepped for an emergency C-section immediately as doctors rushed to save my twins. They got to work so quickly that the anaesthetic hadn’t even kicked in when surgeons sliced open my stomach.
To this day, I’ll never forget the unpleasant sensation of the pulling and the tugging.
I was screaming blue murder when, four minutes later, my daughter Ka’Leah, was delivered.
However it was four hours before they managed to free her brother Kaleem.
Both were dashed to the antenatal unit for immediate life-saving care.
I was cut to shreds and in agony on the inside and outside while I fretted over the welfare of my newborns.
Unable to walk, it was three days before I was allowed to visit them in their incubators.
My stomach wrenched at the sight of them, lying there so small and helpless.
They were both being fed by a long line – a tube used to feed babies that don’t yet have working intestines.
I touched my palm to the glass separating me from my children.
Hang in there little ones – Mummy’s here.
They seemed to hear my rallying cry and the little fighters began to pull through. Both were breathing on their own and the doctors seemed positive that they were out of the woods.
‘They’ve got fighting spirit,’ I told myself. ‘And they’re in safe hands.’
I, however, was still in a lot of pain and it didn’t seem to be shifting. I was told I had a low pain threshold and sent home the following day.
But my condition deteriorated and after my stomach went hard I was readmitted for intravenous antibiotics.
Doctors informed me I had developed an infection following the emergency surgery.
It was horrific being unable to be by my babies’ sides. I felt like they needed me but I was basically bedbound.
Despite being severely unwell, the news from upstairs in the baby ward continued to lift my spirits.
Even though Kaleem weighed just 2lbs and Ka’Leah was even smaller, they were both responding well to treatment.
I thanked my lucky stars that everything seemed to be looking up.
Then nine days after their traumatic birth, I was nodding off in the bed when a nurse jolted me awake on May 26 – a date I’ll never forget.
‘You have to get upstairs to the baby unit,’ she said. ‘And you need to get there fast.’
I heaved myself out of the bed and hobbled as quick as I could up to the ward in nothing but my hospital gown.
Please let everything be OK.
I got the shock of my life when I closed in on Ka’Leah’s bedside.
I knew that something was seriously wrong as I saw a swarm of doctors working frantically on her little body. That was when I was told that I could no longer stay, and ushered out of the way.
The moments that followed felt like a lifetime. I tried to remain positive but my mother’s instinct was in overdrive.
My racing thoughts were finally stymied by a doctor, who delivered the devastating bombshell.
‘We are really sorry,’ he said. I knew what was coming.
‘Your daughter stopped breathing and died.’
I went numb. I’d never experienced death in my family before.
I felt empty and my legs buckled under my weight as a nurse tried to help me back to my bed.
Lying there, it hit me. I’d lost my only daughter.
My mum Donna, 47, arrived at the hospital as soon as she could to support me. I felt like a child again, as she cradled me weeping in her arms.
‘What am I going to do mum?’ I sobbed. ‘I can’t believe she’s gone.’
‘It’s OK,’ she said, tightening her embrace. ‘We’ll get through this Chanell. You have Ka’Leah’s brothers to think about – you have to remain strong for them.’
Later on, a nurse mentioned to my mum that my daughter’s death had been attributed to a heart attack.
‘What did the doctor tell you after Ka’Leah died?’ she asked me.
‘I was told that she’d stopped breathing,’ I explained.
‘Then why are they now talking about a heart attack?’ she said, confused.
The alarm bells started to ring. This doesn’t stack up.
Desperate for answers, we pushed for a postmortem to try and get to the bottom of what really happened to Ka’Leah.
‘She was doing so well,’ I said to my mum. ‘It doesn’t make sense that she was improving one day, and then gone the next. I want answers.’
‘Don’t worry,’ she replied, squeezing my hand. ‘We’ll get them.’
The findings of the postmortem turned our worlds upside down.
Doctors had wrongly inserted a feeding tube into Ka’Leah’s heart cavity.
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that an oversight of this magnitude could happen on a baby ward.
An inquest was opened which concluded, in June, that the line was incorrectly inserted into her heart by a doctor in his first year of training.
The misplaced line caused cardiac tamponade, a rare condition where fluid builds up around the heart.
It was found that this, along with her prematurity, caused her early death.
What traumatises me the most is that no senior doctor had picked up on the mistake for over five days. Severe negligence had cost me my little girl.
The hospital issued an apology but as far as I’m concerned saying sorry isn’t enough.
I have to live with the consequences of their actions every day of my life.
Kaleem was allowed home eight weeks after he was born – the day after his sister’s funeral.
I count my blessings that I still have him but some days he looks so much like his twin sister it breaks my heart. He’s a constant reminder of what we lost.
I dread the day that I have to explain to him why he’s missing a twin.
Even now, at age two, I’m terrified to let him sleep in case he doesn’t wake up again.
What if I lost him too?
I appreciate that lessons have been learned by the hospital and that they have implemented measures to stop this ever happening again. But this won’t bring back my daughter.
No mother should ever have to go through what I did that tragic day.
Four months ago, I was overjoyed to give birth to another little boy Kahlil. He’s absolutely beautiful and his brothers all dote on him.
Now my sons keep me looking to the future – but we’ll always have the memory of our little girl. She may have only survived nine days – but she’ll live on forever in our hearts.