Alex James: The Great Escape

Like pulling a rabbit from a hat
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When they pulled Artie out of Claire he didn't make a sound. I was sure he was dead. Claire was crying and saying, "Is he alright? Is he alright?" I said, "He's just fine darling, don't be silly."

I stuck my head over the curtain. The surgeon performing the emergency Caesarean was rummaging around for the other one. She said, "I've got his feet!" and pulled him out like a rabbit out of a hat. He was about the same size as a rabbit at three pounds. She said, "Twin two delivered Oh seven Oh nine." Twin two was squeaking. I held Claire's hand. The babies were attached to machines. There were nine people, plus us two. Each premature baby needs two specialists. There was the anaesthetist, surgeon and assistant, and people with clipboards. I wondered at the cost of it. On a bank holiday, too. It reminded me of a live broadcast television studio, brightly lit and full of expensive equipment, also with no second chances. It was utterly amazing.

When twins are over 10 weeks premature, as ours were, they don't need a cuddle, they need a doctor. My job was to look after mum, but I couldn't help looking at the babies, trying to understand it all. It's pointless asking, "Are they OK?" when half a dozen experts are using post-space-age technology to try and find out for you; they'll tell you as soon as they know, anyway. The babies went off to intensive care. We both asked, "Are they OK?" The nurse said, "No news is good news!" Claire went into a morphine doze and I had a fag with the pregnant ladies.

When you have a baby you want to tell everyone, but I was in orbit around a strange limbo-land. But I did call Mrs Swann to cancel my piano lesson. She said congratulations - that was when it all sunk in. We saw the babies once they were stable. They were in incubators withwires, tubes and sensors attached to them. Artie was on a ventilator.

Normally babies look like cherubs. The twins, though, were like little old men, only tiny. For the first few days, we couldn't take them out of the incubators. They looked too small and delicate to touch, but they like to be cradled. You need to wash your hands twice. Amazingly they can distinguish their parents' touch from anyone else's - when we touched them, their heart rates calmed down. They recognise voices too. I sang "Quack quack, cock-a-doodley-doo" to Gally, and he dropped off. Babies are the best people to help you write football songs. I tried a few things out on Artie, and he opened his eyes and tried to pull his wires out.

Every time a light flashes, a buzzer goes off or a doctor speaks to you, your heart is in your mouth, it's sheer terror. They're doing brilliantly, though.

They're a week old now and smiling. The NHS is a bloody miracle. I have absolute faith in the special care baby unit team. All you ever hear about the NHS is how bad it is. Nobody wants to go to hospital, ever. It's brilliant, though. Absolutely brilliant.

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