Ashlee and Nick Durand held their identical twins together for the first time on Friday, December 26. They were born on Wednesday, October 29 at 28 weeks. Since their birth they have faced near death situations, but Luca is finally home while Elijah will face more rounds of surgery in the New Year.
By Danika Dent
PREMATURE twins Luca and Elijah Durand continue to astound doctors and their parents with a fighting spirit that belies the challenges they have endured.
The identical twins look nothing alike at the moment, with one weighing just 2360gm and the other a tiny 1676gms after nine weeks.
Leongatha parents Ashlee and Nick Durand said their second pregnancy was anything but smooth.
The first scan at eight weeks failed to pick up the couple were pregnant with twins.
A subsequent scan at 12 weeks found a second heartbeat, but it was immediately clear there were complications as the foetuses were not growing at the same rate.
It showed a brain abnormality in twin 2, Elijah, and further tests and scans showed the twins were not sharing the placenta equally.
“We were having fortnightly scans, then weekly scans and towards the end scans twice a week,” mum Ashlee said, during a short break between looking after the couple’s two year-old Layla and long trips to Melbourne hospitals.
“At 24 weeks the scans showed there was a blood flow problem to twin 2 and at 25 weeks we were told twin 2 was only the size of a 22 week old.”
It was also at this time the couple were told there was an increasing risk both twins would not survive.
Ashlee was put on steroid injections to help the boys’ lungs develop, and amazingly made it to 28 weeks.
“We chose to deliver, just on 28 weeks to give them both a chance of surviving,” Ashlee said.
But the complications were just beginning – of the three hospitals in Victoria that could care for such premature babies, there wasn’t a bed available, until Wednesday, October 29 when the boys were delivered at Mercy Hospital.
“I couldn’t hold my babies,” Ashlee said, holding back tears.
“I saw Luca, the larger twin, but Elijah went straight into high-level care.
“As soon as they were delivered they both went straight to the specialist unit.
“After my recovery, about four hours later I finally saw our babies and I just burst into tears they were just so small – Elijah was 748gm and Luca 1150gms.
“We weren’t allowed to touch them because there were concerns about infections and they were covered in wires, monitors and tubes.”
That night both Elijah and Luca’s conditions worsened. They were put on to tube ventilation as their little lungs couldn’t breathe on their own. Elijah also had a blood transfusion.
“The first week was hell with all of the complications,” Ashlee said.
“On day 2, Elijah’s condition worsened and he was diagnosed with a major heart condition, Coarctation of the aorta, where the aorta narrows and so blood isn’t being pumped properly.
“We were told it was a life-threatening condition, but the surgeons said Elijah was too little to survive the surgery.”
With bleak prospects, the hospital focused on stabilising Elijah, but the heart condition led to a bowel perforation.
He was rushed from the Mercy Hospital while Luca staying at the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Immediately Ashlee and Nick were warned their baby would likely not survive.
Still, they gave Elijah the chance again to prove the doctors wrong.
Happily, Elijah made it through the delicate surgery, but had two stomas and a colostomy bag fitted.
A week later Elijah’s heart condition wasn’t improving and he went in for his second round of surgery in two weeks.
Once again, Nick and Ashlee were told to prepare for the worst.
“The part they were operating on [for the heart condition] was less than 1mm long,” Ashlee said.
“He pulled through but the next 24 hours were touch and go.
“He was put on ventilation again, and as a result of that he has chronic lung disease.”
Complications from the ventilator have also led to retinopathy, where blood vessels to the retina are damaged.
He underwent surgery for this on New Year’s Day and is back on ventilation and is highly sedated.
There are more rounds of surgery to come; his heart condition has returned; he will also need bowel surgery again.
“We’re really hoping Elijah can put on some good weight so there’s a greater chance of success,” Ashlee said.
“He’s 1.676kg now (Luca is 2.360kg), but we’d like to hold it off to about 3kgs if we can.
“He’ll be in the Royal Children’s Hospital for some time – a good few months at least.
“Despite everything, he’s still here, putting on weight and defying the odds every step of the way.
“He’s really a fighter!”
Luca is also steadily putting on weight and came home to Leongatha on Boxing Day.
He had a special visit to his brother on Tuesday, December 30 – the first time the two were together since their birth.
He’s already a star around town and has been under the watchful eye of Ashlee, Nick and big sister Layla.
Help the family
A FAMILY friend, unbeknown to the Durands has set up a fundraising account.
The account at http://www.gofundme.com/in0eko was set up to help the family along the long journey of specialists, tests and surgeries.
It will also go towards fuel and parking as the family remain in Leongatha to keep life as ‘normal as possible’ for their toddler, and travel to the Royal Children’s to visit Elijah.
“Words really cannot express just how much we appreciate what everyone has done for us,” the family wrote on a special Facebook page to share their story.
“To say thank you just doesn’t seem enough.
“We have been blown away with the support and generosity from family, friends the community and complete strangers!
“It really restores your faith in humanity and shows just how much everyone comes together in times of need.
“Never did we expect coming in to this to be given financial assistance to help us through, it has been completely unexpected and from the bottom of our hearts we thank you!”
You can follow the family’s journey on Facebook by searching ‘Team Luca and Eli’.