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Joy and heartache of 'miracle babies'

Mon, 23/02/2015
Goodman family

Matt and Angela Goodman were looking forward to the birth of their twin babies – until things went wrong. KATY HARRINGTON tells their moving story

When Matt and Angela Goodman discovered they were to be parents they were naturally thrilled. It seemed like the perfect next step in what had been a perfect love story.

The couple met at King’s College, London, where Matt, originally from Epsom, and Angela, from West Sussex, were studying. They married in August 2010 and last year Angela was delighted when she found she was pregnant.

“It was the best day of our lives,” she says. To add to the excitement, a scan at 17 weeks confirmed they were having twins, a boy and a girl.

What happened next brought both joy - and heartache.

Despite being ecstatic about becoming parents for the first time, Angela struggled in her first trimester. An active, sporty person who was in good shape and loved the gym, she began to feel sick. “I was very tired, the nausea was so, so bad, I had no energy whatsoever,” she says from St George’s Hospital in Tooting, which has become the couple’s second home in the last few months.

Scans and tests showed Angela was slightly anaemic; but both the babies were growing well – the couple watched them moving and felt overjoyed.

During one early hospital visit, the midwife took a urine sample and sent it to the lab. A week later Angela was told she had a GBS (Group B Streptococcus) infection. She was given antibiotics and a leaflet about GBS.  After a week on the antibiotics, Angela was in work as usual. She wasn’t in pain, but her instinct told her something was wrong. “Call it intuition,” she says.

Trusting her instincts, she took herself to the hospital and after a four-hour wait she was examined internally. The doctor said her cervix was starting to open and her membranes were bulging. Shocked but unsure of the significance of what the doctor was saying, Angela asked for clarification.

At 20 weeks pregnant, Angela was informed she would give birth but the babies would not survive. She couldn’t understand. She was carrying two “very active babies”; they kicked when she and Matt played them Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

To be told there was no hope for them was devastating.

“My heart sank, I just could not believe it. I was heartbroken. It was the last thing I imagined,” she says.

That day, Angela was admitted to hospital on bed rest. She and her husband both cried as they had to consider planning funerals for their unborn children.

The next day the on call consultant came to see her. Angela remembers the exact words the consultant spoke: “I don’t want to give you any false hope, because there is no hope for you.”

The Goodmans were told that for the babies to have any chance of survival, Angela would have to make it to 23 weeks. In the UK, the survival rate at 23 weeks gestation is just 19 per cent – but if the babies made it that far, there was a chance they could be resuscitated. The doctor said it would take a miracle.

After the doctor left the room Angela says something changed in her mind, made her determined that there was something she could do. “I thought ‘the babies are kicking, I’m fine, I’m going to get to 23 weeks’.”

She and Matt researched the best bed rest positions and sought advice from doctors. They were both determined to be positive.

Matt, a Mensa member since1997, stayed with Angela day and night, sleeping on the floor next to her until she reached 23 weeks.

Angela remembers the traumatic day she gave birth clearly. At 3am, her waters broke. She woke her husband and pressed the alarm. The obstetrician warned that if the babies weren’t delivered soon, Angela’s own life would be at risk - she was rushed to the high dependency unit. With two crash teams in the room she gave birth to Oliver first. “For a minute they didn’t think he’d survive but he managed to take a breath and they got him incubated,” explains Angela. Sophia was born next, weighing just 525 grams, and both were taken straight to intensive care.

The next day, Angela broke down in tears when she saw her children for the first time.

Angela bounced back physically but mentally both the Goodmans have endured unimaginable pain and stress over the past months.

“It’s day and night worry, late night calls from the hospital, very difficult conversations,” says Angela.  Little Oliver battled numerous infections, jaundice, a cardiac arrest and finally bacterial meningitis, which proved fatal. He died in his parent’s arms on August 7, at one month old.

Baby Sophia battled life-threatening infections and high- risk surgery but she also demonstrated a fighting spirit. She now weighs four kilos and is growing steadily. Late last year, Matt and Angela were finally able to buy her clothes and give her first bath. For both proud parents life revolves around Sophia and the hospital. They are taking things one day at a time, remaining hopeful that  in the not too distant future, they will finally be able to bring their miracle baby daughter home.

Matt and Angela wish to thank Dr Nigel Kennea, Consultant Neonatologist and Mr Stefano Giuliani, Consultant Paediatric Surgeon and the neonatal team at St George’s Hospital.

This story is reprinted from the March edition of Mensa Magazine. Matt and Angela are keen for their story to raise awareness of prematurity and its main causes, and to raise funds for the charities in this field as a fitting legacy for Oliver. For more information or to make donations please visit First Touch http://www.first-touch.org.uk/ and Best Beginnings http://www.bestbeginnings.org.uk/

For more information about group B Strep visit www.gbss.org.uk

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