Premature twins stable after RAF rescue

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The Independent Online

Twins born prematurely on a Scottish island were in a stable condition in hospital today following a dramatic air transfer on an RAF Hercules aircraft.

The brother and sister were flown from the Western Isles in an emergency rescue operation after their mother went into labour 12 weeks early.

Severe weather conditions made it too dangerous for an air ambulance to transfer the babies to Glasgow so military aircraft were scrambled.

A Royal Navy Sea King helicopter carrying medical staff and incubators flew from Prestwick to Stornoway last night to help stabilise the twins, who were born at Western Isles Hospital.

A Hercules was then scrambled from a base at Lyneham, Wiltshire, shortly before 1am, carrying a crew of four, plus two RAF medics.

They were later flown to Glasgow Airport and transported to the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital, where they are said to be in a stable condition, although they do need help breathing.

Today, one of the doctors involved in the operation said the prognosis was good for the pair, and they hoped their parents would join them later today.

Dr Lesley Jackson, a neonatal consultant, said this was only the second time in five years that a Hercules had been used to transport ill babies.

She said: "The babies are currently stable in the neo-natal intensive care unit at Princess Royal Maternity. They arrived here just after 7am this morning after being flown by the Neonatal Transport Service with the west of Scotland from the maternity unit in Stornoway.

"We've used the Hercules once before. Usually we would use the air ambulance but very poor weather meant we couldn't use that.

"The Hercules was the only really reliable way of getting both babies back at the same time.

"We would imagine the babies will be in hospital until about their due date, so roughly 10 or 11 weeks.

"A lot of that will be in special care, but certainly the first 72 to 96 hours are the most crucial and they are currently very stable.

"We would be very optimistic about the long-term outcome."

As the neo-natal team were dealing with twins they had to provide double the amount of staff and twice as much equipment onboard the Hercules.

A spokeswoman for the Western Isles Health Board said the mother, who had been around 27 weeks pregnant, was in "good health" following a normal delivery.

She said: "The delivery was supported by a neonatal retrieval team led by Dr Charlie Skeoch.

"The twins' mother would like to thank the Stornoway and Glasgow teams for the excellent service they provided.

"NHS Western Isles would like to extend thanks to the retrieval team and to the RAF for their invaluable assistance in handling and responding so promptly to such an emergency situation."

Once the parents travel to Glasgow they are expected to stay in accommodation provided by the hospital until the babies can be discharged.

An RAF spokesman said weather conditions were just beyond the flying limits for the air ambulance, with wind speeds too high and blustery, so using a Hercules was the best option.

He said: "Hopefully everyone working together will have given these babies the best possible chance.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with them. We hope that this will have a happy ending."