My favourite book when I was younger was “Lena and Lisa have Measles’. It tells the story of twins who had chicken pox and their grandma sent them a get well package in the post of things to do when ill. On each page, the twins were dressed in matching outfits and unwrapped matching gifts from their grandma, which gradually saw them getting better until they were cured by the end of the book.
I often thought it would be nice to have twins when I was older and be able to dress them the same and with them always having each other to play with. Little did I know that twenty or so years later, my husband and I would be sat in an ultrasound room thinking I was too big at seven weeks to be carrying just one baby, to be told that we were having triplets.
Although bursting with health today, their story has not been quite so easy and their journey through NICU a lot more tricky to navigate than Lena and Lisa’s cure for chicken pox. It is for the expert medical assistance the triplets received in Sydney that Richard and I are running the Sydney Half Marathon this year.
Amelia, Lily and Madeleine Rohleder were born on the 22nd July 2014 at almost 28 weeks. I had experienced some back pain and after going to the hospital for what we thought was a regular check up, was told I was in labour. Luckily, the doctors managed to delay the birth for two days, giving enough time for the girls’ brains to be protected with magnesium sulphate and their lungs with steroids. I had stopped work at twenty weeks and researched a lot into my pregnancy diet, meaning the girls were born at relatively good (and almost equal) weights for their gestation at 1kg for the identical twins and 1.1kg for the singleton respectively.
The girls stayed in hospital for almost three months, in line with hospital policy to keep them in until their actual due date. Richard and I have always been exceptionally close, moving away from our families in the UK to start a life over here seven years ago. The experience of just the two of us in NICU without family support, willing our girls home, brought us even closer.
After getting through the birth, with almost 50 staff in the room, and seeing how tiny our babies were (you could hold an iphone over the incubator and get the whole baby ina photo), we took it upon ourselves to spend almost 18 hour days at hospital to hold the girls as much as possible with skin to skin time (in between Richard working). There were daily scans and various breathing difficulties to get through, and I also has to express milk 3 hourly to give the girls the nourishment they needed.
Not only were we grateful for the medical expertise the girls received to help them ‘sail through NICU as smooth as silk’ (as one doctor put it) but also for the expert instruction from the nursing staff on how best to care for the girls, establishing a routine for when we got them home (which proved lifesaving!). NICU for us was a positive experience and we will be forever grateful to them for the lives of our girls, and Sophie for her fundraising to help them get the medical apparatus in the first place.
Richard and I met Sophie randomly recently whilst viewing her house at an open inspection and recognising her triplets’ names on the wall from an article I had read that morning. It turned out the race is on my 30th and felt like it was meant to be. Richard and I are not only running due to fate, but also as we cannot believe a) how much money Sophie has raised for premature babies and b) how much it costs to keep them in NICU ( our health fund tells us it cost almost $5m to see our girls through NICU and we know an incubator alone costs almost $1.5m. We were also told that if we had the triplets 15 years ago, we might not have been so lucky.
Today, Amelia, Lily and Madeleine are strong, 100% healthy and very individual toddlers. We hope in 15 years time, medical advances will be such that this will be the case for many more – oh, and that the girls will be running the half marathon with us to raise funds!