The UK’s most premature twins have finally headed home from hospital – five months after they were given a zero per cent chance of survival at birth. Little Harley and Harry Crane were conceived via IVF and were born at 22 weeks and five days – more than a week before the abortion limit.
Babies born at 22 weeks are not classed as legally viable and medical intervention is sometimes not offered. But the tough siblings weren’t going anywhere and have amazed doctors – who initially gave them a zero per cent chance of survival.
Proud mum Jade Crane, 39, has spent the last five months staying by her brave babies’ sides in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) at Queens Medical Hospital in Nottingham. The miracle pair headed home on Monday (14) with their proud mum and dad just two and a half weeks after their original due date.
The former mental health nurse and addiction counsellor, who lives in Derby with her husband Steve, 52, said: “I’m so proud of my babies – they’re little fighters. They’re doing absolutely amazing. They’re doing all the things that we were told they wouldn’t do – they’re crying, they’re surviving.
“The doctors were saying the babies wouldn’t survive at this gestation. I was still two weeks away from what the UK classes as viable and the babies were given a 0% chance of survival. It was only because I was at a teaching hospital and that the babies were born with signs of life that they chose to intervene medically. We’ve waited 140 days for this. It’s really emotional. Sad to leave the team but happy to be going home.”
Steve added: “It’s been such a long time and although it’s been a really, really treacherous journey, 140 days ago we didn’t think we’d be here. It’s just so affirmative to see them together and to be walking out that door. The absolutely stunning doctors, nurses and surgeons have all been part of the making of this moment. It’s hard to say goodbye to them but I hope I never see them again.”
Jade and Steve had quite the journey to finally have their twins after 11 years of treatments – including eight cycles of IVF and several implantations of frozen embryos as well. They had been trying to fall pregnant naturally for three years and Jade had suffered an ectopic pregnancy before they decided to start IVF in 2010.
After three tragic miscarriages on IVF, Jade discovered that she had an overactive immune system whereby her body would reject the pregnancies. The couple moved from a fertility clinic in Nottingham to one on Harley Street in London – believed to be one of the best in the world – where Jade was prescribed lots of different types of medication in order to combat her immune system problems.
She said: “We had a really long IVF journey. Steve and I have been together for 14 years, and 11 of those have been spent doing IVF. On our eighth cycle of IVF, we had two embryos transferred which both worked and we ended up with boy and girl twins!
“I couldn’t let myself believe it, I was so fearful of a miscarriage or something going wrong. I literally didn’t do anything during the pregnancy as a result. I was still in disbelief when we got to 20 weeks, and I hadn’t even hit my third trimester when I went into labour so we hadn’t bought anything!
“We’d painted the nursery and revamped furniture but we hadn’t bought cots or thrown baby showers or anything. The few bits of clothes that I did buy made me think that I better keep the tags on just in case – you just don’t want to let yourself believe.”
Jade took herself to get checked at Queens Medical Hospital in Nottingham on October 26 after leaking fluid at home for several days at 22 weeks pregnant. An internal examination revealed that Jade was experiencing a premature rupture of membranes, whereby the fetal membranes rupture before the onset of labour.
With Jade only being 22 weeks pregnant, her babies were not considered to be viable and the poor mum believed she would lose her precious twins. She said: “The doctor was so shocked – she told me she could see the membrane bulging, so the sac of water was basically showing.
“It was so scary. I knew I was 22 weeks but I didn’t know about the viability thing. They told me they were going to admit me but that I was probably having a miscarriage. The doctor kept saying it was a miscarriage but I said it couldn’t be because I could feel the babies moving. I knew they were ok but was being told they wouldn’t survive at this gestation.”
The abortion law in the UK states that women can terminate a pregnancy up to 24 weeks. Doctors are not required to medically intervene with babies born prior to 24 weeks gestation as they are not considered to be viable.
Jade had chosen to go to Queens Medical Hospital in Nottingham for her baby scans due to the fact that they had a more extensive NICU than her local hospital in Derby, and she wanted a higher level of monitoring due to her fertility history. Luckily for Jade, the facility is a teaching hospital and doctors intervene with babies born 23 weeks and later in an effort to learn more about premature births.
At the time of going into labour, born on October 26, 2021, Jade was still 30 hours away from the 23 week mark – but doctors chose to intervene after her babies showed signs of life when born. Jade said: “I was 30 hours away from what they would class as viable and my babies were given a 0% chance of survival.
“Labour happened really quickly. I was denied pain medication and monitoring during labour as I wasn’t viable, which was awful, really. It was only because the babies were born with signs of life that they chose to intervene medically. They were alive, moving around, and they cried. Their little cries sounded like a tiny kitten.
“I remember saying that I couldn’t hear Harley cry and one of the nurses said I wouldn’t because she was far too early but then I heard this little cry. Harry did the same when he was born an hour later, still in his sac. In Japan, it is seen as being lucky if you have a baby born in their sac, so I held onto that luck!”
Little Harley and Harry were intubated and taken to the NICU where they remained on ventilators as doctors worked hard to save the premature babies. Jade said: “I was told they weren’t going to survive and that I’d have a miscarriage so I was in complete disbelief. I remember getting wheeled round to NICU and the first thing I asked was if they were still here, because I didn’t know if they’d still be there, but they were and still are – 79 days in now!”
The twins have lots of health problems as a result of their premature birth, including chronic lung disease, and have undergone many surgeries in their little lives to combat them. Harley had to have a stoma bag fitted, which has since been removed, and Harry received injections in his eyes to help prevent premature blindness.
Devastatingly, the twins were also diagnosed with a serious gastrointestinal problem called necrotizing enterocolitis. This can be fatal, and Jade was told to prepare to say goodbye. Jade said: “We were told to get the family in and have a christening. I kept referring to the christening as ‘the funeral’. It was just awful.”
Thankfully, the twins have defied the odds and Harley finally joined her brother at home on Monday after their shock arrival five months ago. Jade said: “We’ve waited 140 days for this. It’s really emotional. Sad to leave the team but happy to be going home.
“After they were born, I was Googling twins who survive at 22 weeks and trying to find any that have to give me hope. I found a set of twins in America who had survived – they’re four now. I’ve connected with their mum on Instagram and she guided me through the first few days of being in the unit and what to ask for.
“I’m really lucky that I went to Queens instead of Derby. If I’d gone to Derby Hospital, I wouldn’t have come home with any babies, and that’s where the ambulance would have taken me because of the catchment area – its a postcode lottery. They’ll go down in medical history – I’m pretty sure they’ll be having on of the wards named after them because everyone is just amazed by them!”