Parents of identical twins have hailed the unbreakable bond between their sons, stating that the cuddles from one son are helping the other son who was born weighing 1 pound (0.45 kg) to continue thriving.
Chester Graves was born prematurely at 28 weeks on July 15 this year, weighing 1 pound 1 ounce, alongside his brother, Otis, who was three times the size at 3 pounds 7 ounces (1.56 kg).
After six weeks at the hospital, Otis was discharged and now weighs 6 pounds 3 ounces (2.81 kg), but tiny Chester fought for his life since his birth and only weighs 3 pounds 6 ounces (1.53 kg).
Doting parents Kelly Graves, 32, and husband, Billy, 35, from Benfleet, Essex, England, say that they have no doubt that Chester’s miraculous fight for survival is due to the bond he shares with his identical twin, Otis.
“I have no doubt that cuddles with his twin has helped him keep fighting,” Kelly said.
The twins, said their mother, met for the first time on Sept. 22 since being born in July. The moment was “incredibly emotional.”
“It was everything I was waiting for, and although Otis was asleep, Chester was obsessed with him and couldn’t take his eyes away from his brother,” Kelly said.
Touching photos show the pair lying side by side during family visits to Chester in the neonatal unit at Southend Hospital, where he will likely remain for the next two months.
Recalling the last few months, Kelly shares that since her waters broke at 28 weeks, the family’s life has been a “whirlwind.”
Chester’s health problems first became apparent at Kelly’s 16-week scan, where she was informed that the babies differed in size by 25 percent—something that concerned the doctors.
The difference in size between the two brothers was due to a condition called selective intrauterine growth restriction, which resulted in Chester not receiving the required nutrients from the placenta, halting his growth.
“They informed us that there was absent flow of nutrients to Chester, [which] was the reason why he wasn’t really growing,” Kelly said.
At 19 weeks of gestation, Kelly was admitted to the Kings College Hospital in London for laser surgical treatment.
She said: “I had to have endoscopic laser surgery whereby they enter the womb through the side of your body in order to reach the placenta, kill off the blood vessels connecting the two babies.
The surgery was performed to separate the babies in the womb so that if Chester hadn’t survived, it would have protected Otis from dying or being left with lasting brain damage.”
After the surgery, Kelly and Billy were told Chester was still only growing around 25 grams (0.88 ounces) a week, whereas Otis was growing roughly 100 grams (3.53 ounces) a week.
At every scan that followed afterward, Kelly received the “heartbreaking” news that Chester wouldn’t be able to survive.
“I went away and was eating around 200g of protein per day to help him grow and was drinking around five liters of water to try to get Chester’s water levels up as they were also low,” Kelly said. “This was not in any way proven to help but I tried everything I could to replenish his levels and keep him fighting.”
Chester’s condition stabilized but at 28 weeks, as Kelly’s waters broke, she was blue lighted to go to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge as she was likely to deliver.
Kelly recalls that at this point, Chester was 485 grams, which was close to being deemed viable.
“We were told his heart rate kept dipping and that the chances of survival from the cesarean would be low,” Kelly said. “We just had to hope that he would keep fighting.”
A C-section was performed, and Otis was immediately ventilated, but Chester had to first be stabilized as he had become very weak during the birth.
“Otis came out first and he was put into the incubator,” Kelly said. “When Chester came out, they found a knot in his cord which also halted his growth, and the consultant was desperate to get him incubated as soon as possible to help him survive.”
Luckily, the medical team was able to ventilate Chester. However, since then, he has been fighting multiple issues such as necrotising enterocolitis, or NEC, which is a serious condition where tissue in the bowel becomes inflamed, which Chester caught after nine days.
Additionally, Chester had a hole in his heart, which was discovered later but has now thankfully been closed. He’s also had eye surgery.
Kelly and Billy were able to bring Otis home after 46 days spent between Addenbrooke Hospital and their local hospital of Southend, but Chester has had to stay put on high-flow oxygen and incubation.
“At first, every day we were driving from Cambridge to Southend to visit both babies, and then back to home to visit my other kids, which took around three and a half hours,” Kelly said. “People kept asking how we did it, but we had no choice, we went into survival mode and just kept going.”
During this period, the parents didn’t get time to spend with their three other kids, Phoebe, 10, Florence, 8, and Albert, 5, who were on school holidays. As their parents were busy juggling between the two hospitals, the children had to stay with other family members.
However, according to Kelly, they have been really supportive.
“The kids have been incredible, they are so young but are just as desperate to get Chester home as they haven’t been able to even really meet him yet due to Covid-19,” Kelly said.
Chester has been able to be transferred to Southend Hospital, where Kelly visits him every day.
“We are so lucky that Chester is a fighter and despite everything he has been through, he is still fighting in order to come home and be with his parents, Otis, and the rest of the family,” Kelly said.
For the parents, who regularly document the twins’ journey on Instagram, this is a very “bittersweet” moment, with Otis currently at home.
“Everyone says how nice it must be, but it’s also horrible because we can’t feel complete until both babies are back together,” Kelly said.
Although Chester has tripled his weight and now weighs 3 pounds 6 ounces, he has to still gain 255 grams (9 ounces) and will most likely be on low-flow oxygen when he’s back home, says Kelly.
“We are hoping in around a month or two he can finally meet the rest of the family,” Kelly said.
Epoch Inspired Staff contributed to this story.