Evie and April Hardiker, 5, were dubbed ‘the miracle twins’ by Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital surgeons after the pair became the smallest set of twins they had ever seen with a rare condition that affects approximately 1 in 4000 newborns.
The twins were born with Oesophageal Atresia with Tracheo-Oesophageal Fistula, a condition where the oesophagus (food pipe) is not connected to the stomach which can lead to serious complications.
When they were born, Evie weighed just 720g and April 820g; each the equivalent weight of a loaf of bread. Within hours of being born April and Evie were taken to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital for major life-saving surgery, led by Consultant Surgeons David Wilkinson and Nick Lansdale.
Now, the pair start the year having found their feet at primary school since joining in September. It follows years of managing their condition by mum, Lindsay, 38, and dad, Steve, 51. The twins need regular checks at the hospital, with Evie still needing a feeding tube until only a year ago.
“I don’t know where to start with the challenges we’ve had.” said Lindsay.
“Evie is very small for her age and gets poorly easily, April is a bit more resistant to illness but there are still lots of check-up appointments needed to keep an eye on their condition.
“The condition means Evie gets chest infections much easier and struggles in winter, but the problems don’t end in summer as April tends to be worse through that season – if it’s not one then it’s the other!
“They’ll both have to continue being seen by the hospital until they’re adults. When they were born I was worried they would always be poorly and might not develop properly, maybe even have brain damage, and they’d be going to school needing to eat through feeding tubes.
“But they’ve both settled into school so well and their condition hasn’t held them back at all. They’re not old enough to really understand the situation, they have scars which they ask about and we explain it’s from when they were poorly as babies.
“People tend to think twins will be similar in how they act, but they’re very different from each other. April is eager to be with the rest of the kids at school and always wants to be the smartest in her class, she absolutely loves school. Evie is a lot more laid back and does things in her own time, she’s by far the smallest in her class but it doesn’t seem to bother her.”
With the amount of time the twins have spent at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, the family have grown close to staff.
“When they were born, they were taken away and underwent life-saving surgery pretty much immediately. Dr Wilkinson and Dr Lansdale operated on one baby each at the same time, it’s mind-blowing what they can do, I still can’t comprehend how someone can have the skills to operate on a baby so small like they did.
“I can’t praise staff enough. They have been incredible, everyone has always been so nice and down to earth, nobody talks to you as though they’re on a pedestal – you feel like part of a group. We share family stories and know each other personally, so it very much feels like a family.
“The girls always send handmade Christmas cards to staff. We send them update pictures and the team share them between each other. We’re so grateful for what they did and it feels amazing seeing our girls running off into school problem-free, we never thought it would be this way.”