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Triplets take on 7k walk to say thanks to hospital

03 September 2015

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Looking at this cheeky trio, it's hard to imagine the parental anxiety and medical planning which surrounded their birth five years ago at Southend Hospital.

Looking at this cheeky trio, it's hard to imagine the parental anxiety and medical planning which surrounded their birth five years ago at Southend Hospital.

A team of experts at Southend Hospital were on hand to deliver triplets Oliver, Lewis and Isabelle Stanley via Caesarean section at 33 weeks into the pregnancy. They were then whisked away to the hospital's special care baby unit where they spent 10 days, followed by a week in Neptune unit, the children's ward.

Now, to say thank you for the care they received, the triplets will be taking part in the hospital's annual Walk for Wards on September 20, stepping out on the 7km stroll from Uncle Tom's Cabin at Shoebury to Chalkwell Shelter in Leigh.

"We had very good care by Southend Hospital before during and after their births and it's nice to give something back," says mum Jo. "The boys have asthma and have regular appointments and we have always been treated very well."  

"We always taken them out for long walks and they have recently walked 15 miles on holiday, so they will be fine."

Jo and husband Dave, both 34, underwent fertility treatment and anticipated there might be a remote chance of twins. So when the 13-week scan at Southend Hospital showed not one heartbeat but three, the couple, from Rayleigh, understandably felt large dollop of fear as well as elation, due to the increased risks around multiple pregnancies.

"When I look back I would have said never in a million years," says Jo, an accounts manager for a London-based recruitment company.

They need not have worried. After being seen at King's College Hospital London, Jo had her mind put at rest and enjoyed a good pregnancy, regularly monitored at her local hospital. Ten days before her delivery date - carefully pencilled in the diaries of a team of obstetricians, surgeons and midwives involved in the delivery - she began taking steroids to develop the lungs of her brood.

Lewis, the eldest, came first at 3lb 14oz, followed by Isabelle, 3lb 15oz, and Oliver, 3lb 10oz.

Oliver and Lewis are mirror twins; genetic identical opposites of each other. For the first few weeks Jo kept the boys' identity tag bracelets just so they could tell who was who. Even now, friends struggle to tell the two apart.

Lewis is right-handed, the other left; one has a cowlick to the right, the other to the left. "Even in the womb they moved together," Jo recalls. Isabelle, meanwhile, 'rules the roof' according to her mum.

Nurses and midwives at the hospital had established the trio into a strict four-hourly feed routine once they were out of special care; there was not the luxury of feeding on demand.

The couple were supported by friends and family who would pitch up at feed times to take a baby. But of course the wee small hours were always the worst, particularly if Dave, a police officer at Stansted Airport, was on the night shift. "He was brilliant; always did his bit," says Jo. "But you'd have one start to cry and you'd be looking out for a free hand."

Getting them all ready to get out of the house was also fraught. "I had a triple buggy but it was too heavy and I would get stopped all the time, which was a struggle because I had a limited time to get to the shops before one of them started up for a feed," she recalls.

Now they are older, all are very close with very separate personalities, leading to the usual sibling disputes.

They are looking forward to going into year one at Grovewood Primary in Rayleigh, where they are all in different classes within the year group to develop their own identities, and which means a constant whirl of birthday parties and playdates.

In June each triplet invited the whole class for their combined fifth birthday party - that's 120 four-and-five-year olds. "It's expensive, and every stage we go through with them seems like it's magnified three times," Jo explains. "It's hectic but it's the perfect combination because I always wanted two boys and a girl."

Walk for Wards details

Southend Hospital's Walk for Wards takes place on Sunday 20 September, from 9.30am. There are two options - the 7km 'seafront stroll' to Chalkwell Shelter, or, for the more adventurous, 18km 'Hadleigh hike' which goes up to Hadleigh Castle and back along to Chalkwell Shelter. Entry is free with a minimum sponsorship of £20. To register www.shcwalkforwards2015.eventbrite.co.uk