Premature twin family prepare for first Christmas

Ava Lucas Image copyright PA/The Sick Children's Trust
Image caption Ava, who will turn one in January, has been home for seven months

A couple who refused to switch off their baby's life support after her sister died have told how she "never gave up" on her fight for life.

Ava and Elouise Lucas were born at 25 weeks after doctors discovered a potentially deadly condition.

After just 18 hours, Elouise died, and weeks later medics advised parents Lauren Smith, 23, and Graham Lucas, 27, to switch off Ava's life support.

But after a "traumatic" four months, Ava was allowed to go home.

The twins were born in January, with Elouise weighing just 400g (14oz) - less than a bag of sugar.

Their parents were told the girls had twin-twin transfusion syndrome, with one losing blood to the other via connected blood vessels.

'Hardest decision'

As soon as they were delivered, Ms Smith said, her daughters were immediately taken to intensive care.

"It was the most traumatic time of my life when the girls were born," she said.

"I didn't see them for hours and when I did, it was clear they weren't ready to take on the challenge they needed to face."

Image copyright PA/The Sick Children's Trust
Image caption Lauren Smith and Graham Lucas said they had to "stay strong" for Ava after Elouise died.

Within hours, the couple were told Elouise was dying.

"We had to make the hardest decision - a decision no parent should have to make - we had to turn off our baby's machine," Ms Smith said.

"We were broken-hearted and inconsolable that one of our precious babies had died but we had to stay strong for Ava and pray she would pull through."

'Never gave up'

After four weeks, doctors advised the couple to switch off Ava's life support machine, but the couple declined.

Ava remained on life support for 10 weeks, underwent life-saving treatment and was treated at five different hospitals.

After four months, she was well enough to go home to Peterborough with her family.

Ava is still on oxygen and has brain damage. Ms Smith said medics suspect she will have cerebral palsy.

Image copyright PA/The Sick Children's Trust
Image caption Both twins had to be put on life support machines after they were born at 25 weeks

"She was put through a lot but never gave up and we are so proud of her for that," said Ms Smith.

"This Christmas will be very difficult as even though we are celebrating Ava being alive, we will be remembering our beloved Elouise.

"We will lay flowers in our garden for her and think of her all day.

"We know she will be looking down on Ava as we make the day one to remember."

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