Real Life

Teen Mum’s life saving choice

At just 16 years old, Kayla Crossley-Coe has faced more challenges as a mother than women twice her age.

Pregnant with twin boys and diagnosed with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome – in which one twin becomes overloaded with blood while the other’s body is starved of essential nutrients – single mum Kayla was given the choice to end the life of her smallest baby.

Without treatment there was only a 10% chance of both boys surviving – but Kayla decided to take the risk, and Kyan and Axel are living proof that it’s possible to beat the odds.

Kayla was still at school in Northland when a suspected thyroid problem led to the discovery that she was five months pregnant. “I was quite ‘bloated’ at the time. The specialist felt my stomach was hard and during the scan he moved down a bit and my mum could see a baby’s hand.

“At first she wouldn’t tell me what it was. I said, ‘What is that?’ She said, ‘I think it might be a baby.’

“I freaked out. My mum started freaking out – we were all freaking out.”

By the time Kayla was referred to an obstetrician, she was 21 weeks pregnant and was told she was expecting twins.

But they had a disorder that affects between five and 10% of identical twins.”They told me Axel probably wouldn’t make it. It was so sudden – at first we were talking about getting my thyroid cut out, and next, ‘You’re pregnant with twins – and there’s something wrong.'”

Kayla was told they could cut off Axel’s blood supply, which would kill him but hopefully save his brother.

“I didn’t feel comfortable killing one if they didn’t have a choice in the matter, and if Axel had fought that long why should he die because of someone’s selfishness?”

After Axel took a turn for the worse, the boys were born by emergency C-section on 6 December, at 31 weeks gestation.

“It was scary. I was overwhelmed – they don’t teach you that sort of stuff at school. You get taught babies are born at full-term and then, straight afterwards, you breastfeed. You don’t get taught about Caesareans or premature babies.”

But cradling healthy Kyan in her arms and seeing her tiny 500g son Axel fighting for his life, Kayla’s heart filled with love.

“I was so prepared that he would die that when I first saw him alive and breathing, I was amazed.”

But it was three days before she could hold her tiny son, named after Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose, in her arms.

Now, eight weeks later, Kayla gets to have “kangaroo cuddles” with her smallest son – holding him for two-hour stretches at a time.

“You have to hold them for long periods so they settle on you, otherwise you interrupt their sleep habits,” she explains.

Kyan, who was three times the size of Axel at birth, can now go home, but Kayla is staying at oiddlemore Hospital with him in Auckland where she can be close to her other son in the Kidz First Neonatal Unit.

But Kayla’s still waiting to see some signs of brotherly love between the boys who shared her womb. “Kyan is so jealous,” she sighs. “If I play with Axel he starts crying. one time he let out a piercing scream when I put him down and picked Axel up, so I put picked Kyan up again and he stopped.

“If I tell Kyan I’m going to see Axel, he starts crying.

“I hope they develop a bond, otherwise it’s going to be hell,” she says with a smile.

Axel, who has nearly tripled in size, still has undeveloped organs but is expected to be transferred to Whangarei Hospital shortly, where Kayla will live with an aunt until Axel’s well enough to be discharged.

“They told me he will be smaller than Kyan until he’s at least two years old and will always be a couple of centimetres shorter.”

once Axel is big enough to leave hospital, Kayla and the boys will live at her parents’ home in Kerikeri.

Although she couldn’t sit her end of year exams, she’s now hoping to get her NCEA Level 1 by correspondence.

But in the meantime, she’s going to have her hands full with her boys.

“At the moment it’s a challenge just looking after Kyan. I was quite confident to begin with, but now it’s harder,” admits Kayla, who is looking forward to watching her two sons grow up.

“Axel should be dead. It’s amazing that he survived. He’s such a fighter.”

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