When twins Noah and Oliver Jewitt were born prematurely, blood transfusions played a vital part in their fight for life.
Two years later, their mum Rebecca Jewitt has spoken out to encourage people to become donors as part of National Blood Week.
“They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t have the blood. We wouldn’t have them both.”
The first few weeks of life with a newborn is supposed to be a happy time, but it was a nightmare for Rebecca and husband Lee.
The couple were looking forward to welcoming their twins and adding to their family, which already included daughter Isobella, now 11, and seven-year-old Oscar.
But Rebecca went into labour prematurely at just 26 weeks, She was rushed to Wigan Infirmary, before being transferred to Burnley General and it was there that Noah and Oliver were born on June 7, 2015, weighing 2lb 1oz and 2lb respectively.
I was panicking, thinking where is this blood coming from? What happens if this blood runs out?Rebecca Jewitt
The twins were immediately rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit and put on ventilation.
Rebecca and RL star Lee, previously of Castleford Tigers and now at Hull KR, stayed at their babies’ bedsides.
Rebecca, 31, said: “We didn’t have a life. We have two other children and luckily our family were looking after them. Luckily the club gave Lee time off for the whole time they were in hospital.
“We stayed at the hospital, we had a room there. We went out once to watch one of the children’s sports days and we wondered why everyone was getting on with life. There was no life.
“Every day we were told it was not a matter of getting through this day, it was getting through this hour. It was hour by hour that we were living.
“One of the doctors, when they were born, said Oliver’s chance of survival - one being he would survive and 10 he wouldn’t - he was about a seven, so the odds were stacked against him. It was a very scary time.”
The boys received their first blood transfusion within a week of their birth.
Premature babies have immature bone marrow that cannot produce blood quickly enough.
Rebecca said: “When they first mentioned a blood transfusion, we had never heard of it so it was a big deal.”
They had months of treatment, initially at Burnley Hospital, then later at Alder Hey, Liverpool Women’s and Wigan Infirmary. The family was even split up at times, with a parent and a twin at one hospital and the other parent and twin at another.
Both boys had necrotizing enterocolitis – death of bowel tissue – and received more blood during surgery. The twins also had infections, lung problems, bowel blockages and stomas, but they kept battling.
They regularly received blood transfusions and the difference it made to their health was apparent immediately.
Rebecca said: “They had more than 17 blood transfusions between them and it became like a normal thing. I remember thinking where’s the blood coming from?”
At one point, the North West Blood Bikes helped out by transporting blood to the hospital.
Finally, on September 18 - three months after they were born - the boys were discharged and able to go home.
They both have issues with their bowel, but are generally doing well and are now happy two year olds.
Their sons’ health problems made Rebecca and Lee realise just how important blood donation is.
Rebecca, who lives in Pemberton, said: “I was panicking, thinking where is this blood coming from? What happens if this blood runs out?
“Me and my husband weren’t blood donors. We are now, but we weren’t then.
“I think people who aren’t aware of it don’t understand that it’s so easy to give blood and it’s needed.”
Rebecca says she is very grateful to the NHS for saving her children’s lives.
And she has spoken out during National Blood Week in a bid to encourage others to become donors and help save lives.
She said: “The first time I gave blood, it was so rewarding. It was pain-free, I didn’t feel anything and I got biscuits and tea.
“Afterwards you get a message saying where your blood has gone and you have made a difference.”
NHS Blood And Transplant says that 900,000 people have given up their time to help patients in need over the past year, but 200,000 new blood donors are needed each year.
It is urging people to sign up to become blood donors as part of this National Blood Week and is especially keen to have more young people and more black donors.
Donor sessions will be held in the borough at: Leigh Sports Village on Tuesday June 27; Haydock Conservative Club on Tuesday July 4; DW Stadium in Wigan on Tuesday July 11; and Haydock Park Racecourse on Monday July 31.
To sign up as a new donor or book an appointment, visit www.blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.