Premature twins reunited with team who helped save their lives against the odds

Tuesday, 08 August, 2023

Molly Digby and her partner James, with twins Archie and Jacob, are reunited with the team who responded to the 999 call when the twins arrived prematurely in January

Magpas Air Ambulance Doctor Adriana Cordier with Archie

A young mum has had an emotional reunion with the team from the East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) and Magpas Air Ambulance, who saved the lives of her twin boys against the odds after they were born prematurely at just 28 weeks gestation.

Molly Digby, 24, and her partner James, visited Ampthill Ambulance Station with their twins, Archie and Jacob, seven months after their lives hung in the balance.

Molly was 28-weeks pregnant when her waters broke at her home in Leighton Buzzard just after midday on 9th January 2023. Before she could dial 999, she had given birth to her first child, Jacob, in the bathroom.

In shock, Molly dialled 999 where her call was answered by EEAST call handler, Nick Hall in the emergency operations centre in Hellesdon, near Norwich.

Shortly afterwards, Molly's second child, Archie, arrived still in the sac attached to the placenta. Nick talked Molly through what she needed to do to tear open the sac and start CPR on her baby.

Several EEAST crews and the Magpas Air Ambulance team urgently made their way to the scene, with newly qualified paramedic Cala Thornton and emergency medical technician Jon-James Smith arriving first.

Molly remembers how calm Nick was on the phone and believes his clear instructions, along with the first aid training she'd undertaken through her role in childcare, were vital for Archie and Jacob that day.

Molly heard Archie take his first breath as Cala and Jon-James walked through her door, instantly relieving some of her stress and giving her a chance to call her partner, who was working 90 miles away. 

Seconds after Cala and Jon-James arrived, emergency medical technicians Edward Davey and Megan Bunyard reached the scene, followed by paramedic Clive Gill and newly qualified paramedic Georgina Church. Ten minutes later, advanced paramedic in urgent care Steven Langridge arrived. He travelled 19 miles from Kempston to provide senior management on such a complex job with three time-critical patients. 

The EEAST crews worked quickly in teams to care for the twins and Molly. They provided Archie with effective basic life support and kept Jacob warm and monitored his condition, in the room that was to be their nursery, while Molly - who'd lost a lot of blood - was cared for in the bathroom, being treated for pneumonia.

At this point, Archie's heart rate began to increase from an extremely slow rate. However, his prognosis was still uncertain as he was so small, weighing just 570g.

Jacob was stronger, weighing 1.205kg, but he was still at risk and needed to be in a neonatal intensive care unit as soon as possible.

Due to the severity of the incident, the Magpas Air Ambulance team were requested to assist as the charity's clinicians are able to provide hospital-level emergency care to patients, thanks to their extensive training and the additional skills and equipment they can bring to the scene. Magpas Air Ambulance Doctor Adriana Cordier and Critical Care Paramedic Steve Chambers arrived moments after the EEAST crews. 

After assessing Molly and her babies and seeing what a great job the EEAST crew were doing, they planned to transport the twins in convoy to the specialist Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital. That way they could care for Jacob in the ambulance but be on hand to perform advanced intervention to Archie en route if needed on the other ambulance.

During the journey Jacob started taking a turn for the worse - he was unable to sufficiently breathe for himself and had started going blue. Adriana and Steve were able to put special measures in place to support his ventilation throughout, and fortunately both babies made it to the hospital.

The Control Room had pre-alerted the hospital that two extremely premature babies were en route. They set up two resuscitation stations in the hospital foyer with neonatal intensive care specialists ready to take over their care.

The twins spent nine and 16 weeks respectively in NICU and the Special Baby Care Unit, and the team were astonished to hear how well they have done.

Since that news, they have long wanted a chance to meet Molly, Archie and Jacob again, after what they describe as a job that will forever be etched in their memories.

Molly said:

"It was extremely emotional for all of us to meet the team who rushed to my flat that day and helped save Archie and Jacob.

"Due to the length of time Archie and Jacob spent at the Luton & Dunstable University Hospital we built up a strong relationship with the neonatal team who were amazing, but this was the first time we had seen the crews from the ambulance service and Magpas Air Ambulance since it happened - so emotions were running high for me, my partner James, and my mum, Jan. 

"They filled in quite a few blanks at what happened on the day and I will be forever grateful for what they did. Every day I look at Archie and Jacob it makes me feel thankful to everyone in the NHS who played a part in saving their lives."

Steven Langridge, Advanced Paramedic in urgent care, said:

"It was amazing to see Molly, Jacob and Archie who have done so well.

"I have been to many jobs with fantastic outcomes and many with sad outcomes, but this job is 100 per cent the most memorable of my 15 years working for the ambulance service because of the circumstances and the outcome.

"I think the stars aligned for all three of them on the day - for Molly, Jacob and Archie.

"Everyone worked so well together; it was just so cohesive with everyone knowing exactly what they needed to do and doing it so expertly.

"I must admit I feared the worst for Archie, because he was so poorly, and it is fantastic to see that he and Jacob have done so well and Molly, too."  

Call handler Nick Hall said:

"Immediately after I came off the call, I was taken aback by how well Molly did on the phone in such exceptional circumstances.

"She was extremely brave and it was remarkable how she managed to keep a cool head with all the turmoil going on in front of her and follow my instructions.

"Without following my instructions, maybe the crews would not have been able to pull off what they did in getting the twins to the neonatal intensive care unit - it is a perfect example of the chain of survival with the early administering of CPR proving crucial.   

"I remember saying to Molly on the phone that she was going to make an amazing mum and thankfully it has come to that with both twins.

"Two weeks after it happened, after the crews had heard the twins were doing well, I was called into my manager's office and told that a miracle had happened.

"That happens so rarely and that is easily the highlight of all my time working at EEAST - and it will be, I really can't see it being topped. Probably the worst call I could imagine getting but the best outcome I could have imagined." Critical Care Paramedic Steve Chambers, from Magpas Air Ambulance, said:

"As a charity, we only get called to the most critically ill and injured patients in the region - so we knew Molly's case was serious when we received the call.

"Incidents like this one are rare and complicated. Given the exceptional circumstances, it's amazing to hear how well all three of them are doing now and Adriana and I are grateful to have been able to support with our skills on the day and play a part in the team that achieved a truly great outcome for our patients."

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