My perfect arrivals; TV AIRLINE GIRL'S JOY AT TWINS AFTER TRIPLE CANCER BATTLE.
KATRINA Batham's shriek of joy nearly brought the whole hospital to a standstill. Doctors froze over their stethoscopes while nurses almost dropped their bed pans.
"I'm a mummy, I'm a mummy," Katrina yelled, and if you think this is an over-reaction even for someone who has just given birth to twins, you have to realise what she had gone though for that precious moment.
To say that Clarissa and Freya were born against the odds is to grossly understate the case. Although still only 30, Katrina has fought cancer not once but three times, losing a kidney, her spleen, half her diaphragm and part of her lung along the way.
Her fight against a disease that threatened to engulf her moved millions of viewers in the TV series Airline, which featured her work as an easyJet check-in girl at Luton Airport.
Children, the one thing she yearned for above all, seemed an impossible dream, all the more so when doctors told her that the intensive treatment she had undergone might result in her going through the menopause in her 30s. Now, as Katrina and her husband Julian cuddle their babies at their home in Milton Keynes, Bucks, there is only joy and an overwhelming feeling of relief.
Yet, just like their mum, 11-week-old Clarissa and Freya had to fight to survive in the desperate hours and days following their birth.
"When they were born, Freya's umbilical cord was wrapped around Clarissa's neck," Katrina says, "Clarissa was slowly being strangled. They'd knocked me out with a general anaest- hetic, but I was fighting it. I remember saying, 'Don't worry about me, please save my babies'. I wanted them to live so badly. Within six minutes they had cut me open and got the girls out."
The twins were rushed to the special care unit at Milton Keynes Hospital where they spent the next six weeks. As they were born eight weeks early, Clarissa's lungs had not developed fully and within seconds of arriving in the world she stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated. And both had to be put on incubators.
"When I came round from the anaest- hetic I was ecstatic," says Katrina. "I couldn't help shouting out 'I'm a mummy``", but within seconds I became aware my babies weren't there.
"I was very frightened, but Julian showed me photos of them and told me they were alive. When I did see them them. I just looked at them and said, 'You beautiful, beautiful babies'.I could hold Freya but Clarissa was covered in tubes and wires. Her whole body was rising up and down as she fought for every breath."
Katrina also realised how tiny the twins were. Freya weighed 3lb 6oz at birth, Clarissa a pound more. "When I picked Freya up, I could hold her in the palm of my hand. Her little legs were dangling over my fingers and her bottom was like a plum. I really didn't know if they were going to live or die."
Back in the ward, Katrina was surrounded by mothers nursing their babies. All she had by her bed were two enormous pink balloons her sister Tanya had brought in. "Every night I would hold on to those balloons. Then I would cry myself to sleep. One thing I could do was to breast-feed them. I'd express my milk, fill a bottle and Julian would feed the babies "
When Katrina was well enough, Julian took her home, but not the twins. Yet day by day the girls seemed to be improving...until the Bathams were hit by another body blow. First Clarissa then Freya got bronchiolitis, the baby form of bronchitis. As both were so fragile, it could have been fatal.
"Clarissa's body was like a limp rag doll and I thought were going to lose her," says Katrina
It was close to Christmas and Katrina and Julian surrounded the girls' incubators with their presents. Hospital staff gave them cards with their babies' footprints stencilled on them.
The twins rallied again. "On New Year's Eve at midnight we opened up the blinds in their room and said, 'Happy New Year, darlings'. The next thing fireworks were bursting all over the sky. We thought it was an omen."
It was. For the first time Katrina was able to hold the twins without them being attached to anything. "I walked round and round the room with them in my arms, crying with happiness."
Soon the twins were allowed home... and they had names. When they were born Katrina and Julian were so traumatised they simply referred to them as Twin One and Twin Two.
"Freya means precious one, which she is," says Katrina. "And Clarissa is the name my parents first gave to me. I thought, if I have come through everything that I've come through, maybe I can pass on something of that fighting spirit to my babies."
Katrina was first diagnosed with cancer at 16...and her first reaction was that it might stop her having children. "I've always wanted to be a mum for as long as I can remember. I come from a happy family of six and I wanted the same for myself. When I was told my treatment would lessen my chances of having a family it was as if a light had gone out of my life."
The cancer, which attacked Katrina's kidney, responded to treatment...yet it returned seven years later. By this time, her face was known to millions. Her battle against her illness ran like a thread through the Airline series, her quiet bravery shown week after week as she sat behind her check-in desk. "It wasn't always like that," she says, "Many was the time I'd go away by myself and have a little whimper."
She had also fallen deeply in love with Julian, now 36, a retail manager. "When I knew he was the one, I told him it was unlikely we'd have children. He just said, 'Katrina, as long as I have you that's all that matters'."
They got married just before she had a course of chemotherapy which caused her to lose her hair for a while. This time the tumour was bigger than a tennis ball, but once again Katrina came through, only for the cancer to reappear for a third time five years ago. "I thought it was the end, I didn't want anyone to know. I told easyJet I had a slipped disc and booked into a hospital under an assumed name."
She finally left easyJet in April 2001 and although sh'd been successfully treated, she'd given up hope of everhaving children. Then it happened. "It was right out of the blue," says Katrina. "I got a pregnancy testing kit and when it was positive I couldn't believe it." Doctors were concerned that after all her surgery Katrina's heart might not stand the strain, but she was determined to see her pregnancy through. What followed was a tough battle and during the weeks when the twins' lives hung by a thread, Katrina found herself writing a letter to them in a white notebook. It begins, "Let me tell you about your journey into the world..." It was an emotional story - and best of all it has a happy ending.
Birth weight: 4lb 6oz
Stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated
Birth weight: 3lb 6oz
Spent six weeks in
special care unit
Fought cancer three times, losing a kidney, her spleen and half her diaphragm before having her babies
Joy and relief of the two proud parents; Clarissa 'was like a limp rag doll'; Hostess Katrina in the TV series Airline; Freya fitted in palm of mum's hand
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|Publication:||Sunday Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Feb 20, 2005|
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