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Premature twins connected by new app while being treated 60 miles apart during Covid outbreak

PUBLISHED: 15:57 06 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:31 06 August 2020

James and Freddie Askew were seperated just weeks after their premature birth at Ipswich Hospital in March when they needed treatment at different hospitals. Picture: JANE ASKEW

James and Freddie Askew were seperated just weeks after their premature birth at Ipswich Hospital in March when they needed treatment at different hospitals. Picture: JANE ASKEW

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A couple were able to stay connected to their prematurely born twins online after they were split up for specialist treatment at hospitals nearly 60 miles apart.

Jane and Alez Askew. from Colchester, welcomed both of their twin boys home on May 29. Picture: JANE ASKEWJane and Alez Askew. from Colchester, welcomed both of their twin boys home on May 29. Picture: JANE ASKEW

Jane and Alex Askew were able to watch over Freddie and James Askew thanks to the vCreate app used by East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

The twins were born at Ipswich Hospital on March 26 by Caesarean section, just three days after lockdown, weighing 2lb 1oz and 3lbs.

They were cared for at the Framlingham Neonatal Unit for the first two weeks of their life before being transferred back to Colchester’s Neonatal Unit where medical teams identified Freddie was having bowel problems.

He was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital for more specialist care and stayed there for nearly two weeks, a situation not uncommon for premature babies but made more stressful by the national lockdown.

Freddie Askew was transfered to Addenbrooke's for specialist care for his bowel problems and was discharged at the end of May. Picture: JANE ASKEWFreddie Askew was transfered to Addenbrooke's for specialist care for his bowel problems and was discharged at the end of May. Picture: JANE ASKEW

Jane said it was a really “tough time” for her and Alex dealing with being first time parents to premature babies during a global pandemic and then being separated from them.

Luckily the Colchester family was able to stay connected with vCreate, which shares videos and messages with parents, allowing them to see for themselves the progress their newborns are making.

Jane said: “It was really good to have the app. The nurses would send photos overnight and although you know they would ring if something was wrong, it’s the added reassurance you get and it’s lovely to see a photo.

“Our family and friends enjoyed seeing them too.

James Askew was treated at Colchester Hospital's Neonatal Unit while his twin was sent to Addenbrooke's. Picture: JANE ASKEWJames Askew was treated at Colchester Hospital's Neonatal Unit while his twin was sent to Addenbrooke's. Picture: JANE ASKEW

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“It was particularly good for us because there were a couple of days where we didn’t see either of them, so getting to see the photos of James and the updates was really nice. Everyone was so fantastic and looked after them both really well.”

James was in hospital for six weeks before going home on May 6, while brother Freddie came home three weeks later after being discharged on May 29.

The app was developed by the NHS to provide reassurance and reduce the separation anxiety some parents can feel when they cannot be with their baby.

Neonatal ward clerk Tuesday Simpson helped to introduce it at Colchester Hospital and train the team on the Neonatal Unit.

She said: “Babies born at this time are going to be part of history, but this gives people hope and allows them to make memories as they can save the photos and videos we send them.

“I think it’s going to make such a difference, especially if mums have been poorly or if it’s not easy for mum or dad to come in.

“It’s more personal. Parents can contact us using the app so it almost works like texting and gives them reassurance when they are not here and is another way to keep them in the loop.”

The system is also up and running at Ipswich Hospital.

Julia Cooper, clinical lead nurse on Framlingham Neonatal Unit, said: “Parents are over the moon. It’s the little things, like videos of their babies going to sleep at night, that they have really liked.

“We see a lot of parents who have to go home and can’t be here all the time, so it’s great we can send them messages about how their baby is getting on.”

MORE: Covid-19 areas scaled down at hospitals as patient numbers fall


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