Having lost a baby boy at the age of just three days, Mandy Jones told how his surviving twin brother gave her the strength to carry on.
Tyler and Luke were born on August 7 last year when Mandy went into premature labour, 16 weeks before her due date.
Mandy (32) said: “I was 24 weeks and two days when they were born. They were only just viable. I went to Craigavon Hospital first and then was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital.”
Luke weighed one pounds and four and half ounces while Tyler’s birth weight was one pound and seven and a half ounces.
Mandy said: “Because they were so tiny they were put straight into incubators in the neonatal unit.
“After three days the doctor told me Tyler wasn’t going to make it. I had to choose between him staying on ventilation and letting him die there or holding him in my arms until his last breath.
“I chose to hold him. I’m his mum and it was the natural instinct.”
Mandy explained how Tyler’s twin brother Luke has kept her focused in the face of the tragic loss.
She commented: “I lost Tyler, but Luke was still battling so I couldn’t afford to lose focus.
“It was hard walking back into the place where my other wee baby had died, but you can’t give up. I put my heart and soul into making Luke well.
“Luke has kept me strong. He’s such a wee gift.”
She added: “My sister Lisa (Rodgers) was with me every day. She lost a wee baby girl, Mia, herself and the support she gave me was unbelievable. You don’t expect someone to have to go through that twice.
“She said to me, ‘It’s not the road, it’s the destination’. I’ll always remember that.”
Mandy continued: “The neonatal unit were a Godsend to me. The support from them was amazing.
“The doctors took their time explaining everything. Doctor Millar showed genuine compassion. You could see he was devastated when he broke the news.”
Mandy has two other children - Sophie (10) and Amy (7). Both her girls go to Carrick Primary School.
She told the ‘MAIL’: “Sophie and Amy were allowed in to meet Tyler when he was sick. Other than that they weren’t allowed in to see Luke.
“I was bringing them home pictures and telling them how Luke was getting on but it wasn’t the same as seeing him.
“It wasn’t a normal routine for children not to see their younger brother. They were asking questions like, ‘How’s Luke’s oxygen?’ That’s not normal conversation for a child at primary school.”
She continued: “Luke was in hospital up until Christmas. Since he got home he’s been spoiled rotten.
“It’s been a very tough time for the two girls but they’ve been really great with Luke and they have an understanding of what happened with Tyler.”
Mandy explained: “Sophie donated her birthday money to the appeal. I told her she didn’t need to, but she said: ‘Tyler was my brother and I want him to have my money.’
“I always tell the girls, ‘Tyler will be here in our hearts always’.”
Mandy and her cousin Lyn Patton have organised an event to both commemorate Tyler’s short life and celebrate Luke’s first birthday. It takes place in The Pheasant Lodge in Gilford on Saturday, August 3 with proceeds going to the neonatal unit.
Lyn, from Bleary, organises charity events on an annual basis, though this year’s fundraiser is particularly close to her heart.
She said: “Mandy and I are cousins but we were brought up like sisters. When Luke got home Mandy brought him here first. I came downstairs and saw him I just started bawling. Mandy has been through so much and has showed real courage. Luke is a real wee miracle.”