‘I feel blessed every day having my Heidi after losing her twin sister’

Sharon Keogh (37), from Balgriffin, gave birth to premature twin girls Heidi and Emily in June 2010. Her due date had been August 16.

Sharon, whose babies were born at 29 weeks, was not only dealing with early-term birth but grieving the loss of her daughter Emily, who tragically suffocated in the womb.Surviving twin Heidi (6) suffers regular chest infections and she’ll always, along with her mother, remember baby Emily.

Baby Heidi shortly after she was born

“They were two-and-a-half pounds each,” Sharon said.”Their cords became entangled and one suffocated.”

Heidi Keogh (6) pictured with her Mother Sharon Kavanagh at their home in Balgriffin .

While it has not been an easy journey, Sharon said “brave” Heidi has battled with her health and come out the other side.”Heidi has come so far and I feel blessed to have my beautiful girl,” she told the Herald.

“But she still has white marks on her hands and feet from the tubes in the hospital from when she was an infant. They’re her trademarks to show off to the world just how brave she was as a little baby. She’s fully aware of what she went through and of losing her sister too.”Sharon described little Heidi as a “lovely little character with a very cheeky side”.

“She’s a super brave girl and I firmly believe she has her sister Emily on her shoulder protecting her every day.”She has such a caring nature and always puts others first, even at her age she’s looking after everyone round her.

“She’s in first class and she’s thriving. I feel so lucky because she’s come so far after fighting a battle as a baby.”We are really thankful to the doctors because we could so easily have lost both babies.

Heidi Keogh (6) pictured with her Mother Sharon Kavanagh at their home in Balgriffin .

“The doctors told me afterwards that both babies had shared the same placenta and that Heidi had seen her sister in trouble.”She’d tried to save her sister by pumping blood into her but in turn that was putting Heidi at risk, so the doctors made the decision to deliver the babies.

“I only went in for a routine scan that day, I had the coffee ordered and was going back to work,” she added.”I went to hospital and then the doctors spotted this was an emergency. Of course I wouldn’t be going back to work that day.”Both babies were perfect when they were delivered, fully formed, but of course Emily was gone and that was just the hardest thing, to hold a baby who was lifeless, though she was absolutely beautiful.

“So I know absolutely how very lucky we are to have Heidi. She’s a strong, gorgeous little girl and I’m a very, very proud mother.”Sharon also has two other children – Zoe (8) and Charlie, who is two-and-a-half.The mother said she felt very nervous having another child but doctors reassured her every experience of pregnancy was different.

Sharon is supporting a two-pronged campaign to give the mothers of premature and special care babies longer maternity leave, while they visit their children in neonatal intensive care units and care for infants at home.Irish Premature Babies (IPB) is lobbying for extended maternity for mums of early term infants.The Irish Neonatal Health Alliance (INHA) is campaigning for the mothers of all special care babies to have extended maternity from work.

After losing baby Emily, Sharon said she felt compelled to go back to work in the finance sector.”I was dealing with the emotional turmoil of a premature baby, bereavement and financial pressure – it was too much and my marriage broke down as a result,” she said.”To face going back to work, when I was all over the place, was horrendous. I basically had a breakdown.

“I needed longer off work but I had to pay bills. I had no choice but to go back to work and a year later my marriage was over.”* INM has a dedicated section independent.ie/babyloss where parents of all ages can share their stories of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. The section will serve as atestament to the women and men who share their stories, a memorial for the babies lost and as a resource for other people who have gone through or are going through the experience.

Your stories can be anonymous or on the record and nothing will be published in any format without prior consultation with you. If you would like to be part of this and tell your story, email Yvonne Hogan at yhogan@ independent.ie

Online Editors